Review: Not Even the Dogs – The Old Red Lion Theatre, London

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Review: Not Even the Dogs – The Old Red Lion Theatre, London

A must-see new play in Islington, wonderfully directed by Josh Baumring-Gledhill and Josh Myers, tells the true story of the Jewish academic Emanuel Ringelblum, who lived in Warsaw in the 1930s and 1940s

The news this week that one in five young Americans believes the Holocaust was a hoax underwrites the importance of plays like Not Even The Dogs at the Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington.

Written and directed by Josh Baumring-Gledhill and Josh Myers, this new play tells the true story of the Jewish academic Emanuel Ringelblum, who lived in Warsaw in the 1930s and ’40s.

Emanuel’s realisation that, by definition, victims rarely have the chance to record events or to tell their side of the story, inspired him to create an archive of Jewish life in the Warsaw ghetto. He enlisted his fellow academics to help him record every aspect of their existence – not just the important historic events but also the little things, the day-to-day occurrences, that were part and parcel of living in terrible times. Not Even The Dogs allows the audience the privilege of entering into the world of the Ringelblum family to meet Emanuel, his wife Yehudis and their son Uri, and their friends, and to hear their stories, related in their very own words, skilfully and sensitively selected and taken verbatim from the archive they created.

Wonderfully directed, with a talented ensemble cast of six, playing multiple roles, this play is a must-see. Emanuel is brought to life by Sam Ebner-Landy, and Ellie Sager’s portrayal of Rachel Auerbach is beautifully performed.  The intimacy of Islington’s Old Red Lion’s black box theatre is the perfect venue for this play. The simplicity of the stage, and the minimalism of props, just six simple wooden stools, are used to great effect. Combined with costumes in a sepia palette, and wonderful acting and movement, together they create a compelling 90-minute performance.

“Emanuel’s tale provided us with a different way of telling stories from this period of history. It gave us a perspective whereby we could mourn those lives tragically lost but also celebrate the lives they so beautifully endeavoured to live in the face of brutal destruction; of their eternal endeavour to survive as individuals and as a collective ancient people, even beyond their death,” said the playwrights. The play is co-produced by Ella McQueen and Lew Forman.

Many Holocaust-themed plays have been written, the most notable in 2023 being the standout White Factory at the Marylebone Theatre. Not Even The Dogs tells a similar story but in a very different way. The word Nazi is never mentioned yet this play powerfully conveys the horrors of life for the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto.

Every performance is sold out – if you’re lucky you may get on the waiting list. But if you don’t manage to get on the waiting list, make a note to book tickets when the play, which it is sure to do, returns to the London stage.

Not Even The Dogs is at The Old Red Lion Theatre 16-20 January 2024

Click here to read more about Not Even the Dogs, including an interview with the writers

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