Review: Korczak, YMT at Rose Kingston

“What should we do when everyone acts less than human? We must act more than human.”

The true life story of Janusz Korczak a Polish Jew who protected some 200 children from some of the worst horrors of the Second World War may not seem a likely subject for a piece of musical theatre but strange as it may seem, it works with a devastating precision. It was written in 1998 for youth theatre groups by Nick Stimson (book and lyrics) who also directs here and Chris Williams (music) but this version is presented here by Youth Music Theatre – the UK’s leading national music theatre company for young people – at the Rose Theatre in Kingston.

In Liz Cooke’s stark, wire-caged design with occasional shots of video, the story moves from the orphanage Korczak set up in the Polish countryside, inspired by those he saw in England, where he attempts to shield the children from the war that is ripping their country apart, to the Warsaw ghetto where they are eventually shipped off to as the Nazis’ Jewish solution took hold. But rather than focus on the sadness and horror, the writers tell the stories of these children, the various ways in which they react to the challenges posed to their everyday lives and getting on with the business of growing up, learning about love, humanity and responsibility even as the shadows grow ever darker. Continue reading “Review: Korczak, YMT at Rose Kingston”