Thursday, 20 March 2003

A Different Sky by Caroline Moore , March 20, 2003

A Different Sky  by Caroline Moore
 Chapel off Chapel, March 20 to 30, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

As we face a period of war and insecurity, the issues in Caroline Moore's play, A Different Sky,  become even more relevant.

The play is a short, touching, naturalistic piece about a Dutch Jewish family that migrates to Australia in 1957. The story, based on Moore's own experience, deals with Ronnie,  (Aimee Chapman) an eleven year old boy in a migrant camp.

Chapman plays the young boy with great sympathy and accuracy. Her portrayal of his gawky, pre-pubescent confusion is delightful. It is a rites of passage story. The core of it is Ronnie's discovery that he is Jewish after eleven years of total ignorance of his cultural identity.

His relationship with his mother, Tonya,  (Rashelle McHugh) is the focus of the play. We are aware of his father's presence but never see him. Ronnie's newfound friend, Saskia,  (Suzi Alexopoulos) is the catalyst for Ronnie's awakening.

Ronnie's eyes are opened to his past, his Jewishness, his mother's prejudices and fear and to the differences between nationalities. With whom is he allowed to play? Not Frederick, the German boy, it seems.

Tonya and her husband survived the death camps of the holocaust. Like Moore's own parents, they left Holland when the Russians invaded Hungary in 1957. Ronnie's family seeks a new, safer life in a country that has space, mountains and a different kind of sky. Sadly, Tonya finds that even in this new land, the enemy follows.

Moore cleverly reveals in one moving scene, Tonya's torment. She describes two German women in the laundry talking about their husbands' Nazi activities during the war.

Director, Nic Velissaris,  concentrates appropriately on the story and characters in this production. The relationships are strong and Moore's dialogue is understated and warm.
  There could be some neatening up of the scene changes that are often slow. The set design (Danielle Harrison) is a little awkward and the lighting (Michael Parry) does not give the piece the atmosphere it requires.

Moore's play might be developed further into a larger play. There are parts of the story about which we want to know more.  We are fascinated by Saskia's kleptomaniac mother. And want to meet Ronnie's dad's and the distressing German women.  All these wonderful off-stage characters could fill a bigger play.

By Kate Herbert

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