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When my brother was much younger, he would make model buildings out of paper and tape. They would be replicas of castles, of palaces (including a phenomenal one of Versailles), and other structures of note. He would also create little figurines to inhabit the space, perhaps imagining how they interacted once upon a time.

I think he would have loved this production of Kamp (from company Hotel Modern, the Netherlands) at the PuSh Festival. Just look at this set:

Kamp

According to a recent article on the show, there are 3500 hand-made clay figurines used in the performance. They are arranged, re-arranged, and animated by three performers; these mute performers are always visible and always present, though not the focus of the piece. The focus is on the buildings and the figurines that are captured by a video camera and displayed in real time on the white screen backdrop. The audience catches glimpses of the gas chambers, the sleeping areas, a nazi drinking party, the hard labour forced upon the prisoners, and one particularly wrenching scene in which a sadistic soldier beats one victim to death with a shovel.

It is difficult for me to understand the sheer magnitude of the Holocaust and its destruction; statistics and numbers mean very little to me, and that is often all we are given in history books. The most striking thing about this visual display was actually seeing these numbers, these statistics come to life: row upon row of figurines, their swollen faces staring out from the screen, the camera slowly and carefully capturing every detail; dozens of figures piled into the showers; dozens of bodies thrown into a pit. It hits you hard.

The performance is only one hour long. But the audience on Thursday evening stay for yet another hour to attend the talk-back. Some audience members had actually been to Auschwitz and said they found this performance much more personal and affecting.

One particularly interesting question was asked: how far can you push an audience? At what point does the horror and destruction become too much to bear? I’m thinking specifically of the scene with the shovel; it almost made me ill. Is this something we should strive for in dramatic theatre, or is it just too much?

Here are a couple more close-up photos:

Kamp

Kamp

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