Set in the dark, dusty and claustrophobic caverns underneath the Pleasance, The Factory attempts to give a taste of the experience of Jewish concentration camp victims during the Holocaust.
Given the seriousness of the subject matter, this was important to get right – any patronising trivialisation of the topic would have been unforgivable. Fortunately, this powerhouse production delivers an experience that is unlike any other and pays due respect to its subject.
From the outset, we are disoriented. Herded into a low-ceilinged cavern, we are shouted at, sworn at, threatened and immediately split into two single column rows, commanded to keep quiet and face straight ahead. Even when one audience member mutters something to his companion, one of the five-strong cast runs up to him and screams “no fucking noise” inches from his face.
The cast – one female and four male, all dressed in the striped and tattered ‘uniform’ of the internees – then proceed to spend 5 minutes banging metal plates hanging on the walls. The noise is deafening and by the end we are pummelled into submission.
We are then led through a series of rooms, ordered into our places by a screaming guard. The experience of the inmates is brought to life by two of the performers, one of whom is being forced to work for the guards; the other determined not to accept her fate without a struggle.
It is obvious as we continue that struggle is useless and this defiance turns into appalling acceptance and tragic inevitability. In the penultimate room, orders are given to strip, and the performers stand amongst us naked, shivering and crying. Then, with increasing fear and desperation, we are commanded one by one into a tiny room, crammed next to each other and the naked cast. The three victims in our midst speak desperately and ultimately end up singing a Jewish hymn of devotion and defiance before, suddenly, the lights go out. When they go back on, they are lying, dead in our midst. They are carried out and a lone performer appears at the door, desperately repeating the phrase ‘remember us’ over and over again.
We are then led out into the harsh daylight, the cast nowhere to be seen. Impossible to forget and equally impossible not to remember those that didn’t get the luxury of ever seeing daylight again.
A stunning accomplishment.