Irish theatre has proven through much of the twentieth and into the twenty-first century that it very truly has more than just a passing flair for history. Irish culture is dominated by an oral tradition of stories, laments, experience and memory that ties in with the past, the dead, ghosts and place. Brian Friel, Tom Murphy, Marina Carr and Conor McPherson are just a few names that echo this eminence of the ‘historic’ in their writing. Even as far back as Yeats and Gregory, there was an air of mysticism, of legend and myth – of history, about Irish theatre. I’m not sure we have ever shrugged that off.
Over the next decade an inevitable and unprecedented level of historical analysis and evaluation will take place with centenaries of events from the 1913 Lock-Out, Home Rule, World War I, the Anglo-Irish Treaty trough to the Civil War and into Independence all taking place. These, (mostly Irish) examples will look at how perspectives of these major social and political events have changed or perhaps remained unaltered as the years have gone by. These perspectives are born out of experience and later, by memory.
Zeitgeist is a new play written by Bernard Field and currently being staged at the Town Hall Theatre, Galway and will be travelling to the New Theatre, TempleBar, Dublin in May 2012. It is the story of Ludwig, a now elderly German man who in his younger days was a trained doctor and also a member of the Nazi Party and later a camp guard in the death-ground that was Auschwitz.
Now in his twilight years, Ludwig is living out his life with the company of his wife Frieda in the comfort of his home and in a routine of daily naps, cake, classical music and in adoring his butterfly collection.
This shy and retiring homestead vista is upended by the impending arrival of an interviewer determined to exorcise the past and repressed memories and life of Ludwig and also Frieda. As Ludwig outlines: “We are the past. We are repositories of knowledge”.
Playwright Bernard Field bases the play on a real and past interview he read in a German newspaper where a retired Nazi concentration camp guard offers his perspectives on his life’s work for the brutal and barbaric regime. For that man and for Ludwig, the perspective was similar: no regrets. Accountability does not begin with admittance, it requires acceptance.
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For tickets and further information on the production of Zeitgeist at the New Theatre, TempleBar, click here: http://www.thenewtheatre.com/tnt_php/scripts/page/reading.php?reading_id=14&gi_sn=4f955be07489a%7C0