We all know dealing with your family can be a perilous exercise, let alone running a business with them. Now, imagine doing that in Germany, under the rise of Nazism and the election of Hitler. Dark, isn’t it? Well, that's exactly the world this play pulls you into, through its unique style of vibrating audio effects and outstanding visuals; drama group 'Comédie Française' takes the audience into another dimension.
Photo Credit: Comédie Française
As stated earlier, the play focuses on the von Essenbecks, a powerful and well-established German family. This family is characterised by its soul slowly being crushed by pressure and power struggles. Therefore, Ivo van Hove depicts a profound picture of a generation clash, where the ambitions and decisions of the elderly have direct consequences on the new generation.
The atmosphere of the play is heavy, but we like it. The set consists of a closed room, making an audience feel somehow on edge which contributes to the darkness of the play. What adds to the play’s charm the most though, is the historical aspect of the story. Ivo van Hove invites us to watch several brief video clips and messages in order to make us understand the ever-important historical and political context of the story.
Because historical context is central to the play, it deals with the sensitive topic which is the rise of Nazism in Germany during the twentieth century. In this way, The Damned is much more than a family affair. It is a story of enlistment, power struggles and loneliness. Through these themes, Ivo van Hove explains to us how our own personal issues and trauma can push young people to switch to extremism. This topic is unfortunately all the more important, given that we are currently living a period of political disturbance and rise of extremism all around the world.
Although sometimes hard to follow, this play remains a masterpiece which will make you react and think all night long.
'The Dammed' was on at the Barbican until the June 25th and more information about the production can be found here.
Edited by Alexia McDonald, Digital Editor