The brutal ordinariness of mass murder is the challenging topic of this play, which charts the strange relationship that builds up between nine-year-old German boy Bruno and his young Jewish friend Shmuel, the two seemingly so similar – except for the concentration camp fence that separates them.
Bored and alone when his father is transferred from Berlin to run the camp, Bruno seeks out companionship and chances on Shmuel. The two boys discover they share their birthday and, as it turns out, their fates are tragically aligned too.
Based on John Boyne’s book, this theatre adaption by Angus Jackson is heavily dependent on its young cast, with a rota of three young actors filling each of the two lead parts. Tonight Cameron Duncan brought a prim naivety to Bruno, with Sam Peterson a more matter-of-fact, sedated Shmuel. The pair are tasked with carrying the piece, and do so with admiral skill.
Marianne Oldham gradually disintegrates as Bruno’s mother, and Phil Cheadle is the model commandant.
The vignette style and en vogue revolving stage serve to fracture the narrative, but perhaps the resulting emotional detachment reflects the grim domesticity of what transpires: ordinary people in horrifying transgressions.