The Book Thief play (based on a novel by Markus Zusak) is set in Nazi Germany during World War II. The story is told from the perspective of Death, which is quite unique and really came across well on stage. Death in this scenario wore smart attire so I didn’t immediately realise he was Death!
Death (Obioma Ugoala) takes an interest in the life of a young girl, Liesel (Eirini Louskou) who is sent to live with foster parents in Germany when her parents are murdered by the Nazis. Liesel is encouraged to learn how to read by her foster father, Hans (Jack Lord) and a Jewish man that they’re harbouring illegally named Max (Daniel Krikler). She finds great solace in books during a time of great turmoil, and she records the lives of the people she loses, which I found absolutely heart-breaking.
There were some particularly poignant moments for me, like when Death discussed the human condition and the way we were so prone to hatred for one another. I was absolutely moved by the ensemble pieces – the harmonies were so impactful and emotive! I found out very recently that my ancestors were Jewish so it made me feel quite tearful. As Daniel Krikler, who is based from my home town of Coventry, put it:
“As a member of Coventry’s Jewish community from a young child, there is no place I’d rather be telling this beautiful, important story. Coventry has its own deep connection to the Second World War with the Blitz very much in living memory, so I know how much the show will resonate here with the community.”
Liesel’s foster mother (Mina Anwar) and her neighbour, Rudy (Oliver Gordon) were very funny and played brilliantly. The play was incredibly well cast, which made it even more emotional, hopeful and tragic. The persistence Liesel had in a time of great loss was inspiring (and played beautifully by the young actress). Liesel learns that kindness is something to be nurtured – something that can help us persevere through the dark times and she also really highlights the power of words.
Something I’ve always believed is, with the right language, anything can be achieved. I can see hatred growing in our current society and I really hope that we’ll be able to remain open-minded and kind as a nation whilst keeping harmful rhetoric out of our vocabulary.
I’d really recommend people see this musical – the addition of music to a story this powerful only enhanced it. The story is timeless and a stark reminder of the darkness, and resilience, of humanity. If you are looking for a musical that’s up there with Blood Brothers or Bugsy Malone for its simple but iconic set, then definitely catch it at The Belgrade, or at your local theatre.
Thank you to the Belgrade Theatre for the invitation.