RedNeedle Productions presents The Project
Written & produced by Ian Buckley
Directed by Anthony Shrubsall
Musical Director - Stefan Potiuk
Set Design - Sarah Baker
Lighting Design - Chuma Emembolu
Lighting, Sound - Alistair Warr
Casting Director - Sara Lawrie
Poster Design - Paul Vine
Victor Gerrin - Lloyd Morris
Anna Hilmann - Faye Maughan
Peter Weiss - Nick Delvalle
Millie Hilmann - Eloise Jones
Ette Hilmann - Cate Morris
Conrad Schaffer - Mike Duran
RedNeedle Productions presents the world premiere of The Project, a play that combines cabaret with the politics of racism that drove the Nazi occupation of Holland in the Second World War.
Northern Holland 1943. A bleak muddy camp named Westerbork, bursting at the seams with displaced people. And in this camp a miracle - cabaret performed by the very best artists in Europe to a smiling camp commandant. He wouldn't miss a show for the world, just as he wouldn't miss signing off the weekly transport of 1000 jews to the frightening East.
HOW THIS PLAY CAME ABOUT
What kickstarted me into writing The Project was a previous play of mine - Picasso’s Artful Occupation. As I focused on this great artist’s life in Paris under Nazi occupation, it led me into a wider reading of how the Nazi killing machine operated Europe-wide.
I came across Westerbork quite by chance. I knew names like Auschwitz, Belsen, Sobibor, but I’d never heard of Westerbork. I’d also never made the distinction between a concentration camp (for killing or working to death) and a holding camp like Westerbork (for registering, filing, sorting). The latter were rightfully labelled ‘the ante-rooms to the gates of hell’.
I didn’t know that life in these holding camps was tough and unpleasant, but infinitely better than the onwards destination waiting for their inmates. In Westerbork they were ‘allowed’ to play sports, attend keep-fit classes, rehearse and present cabaret and engage in other cultural pursuits. They had a huge well-staffed hospital wing. However, the ‘they’ who could enjoy these things (if enjoy is the right word) were normally the minority of longer-stay inmates who helped - under severe duress - to run the camp. The vast majority of Dutch Jews came into the camp were registered and left soon after on the weekly transport to the frightening East.
Part of the reason I felt so impelled to write The Project was because of its relevance for our times, especially in the light of the regrowth of fascism in Europe today. It’s important to know where fascism/nazism always ends up - in huge societal destruction and the victimisation and destruction of minority groups. 1940’s Nazi Germany is a paradigm for this process and Westerbork Camp one example (and not the worst) of the killing machine cranking up to do its deadly duty.
When we see Anna and Millie and Peter and Ette and Victor and we understand where they ended up, we need to learn lessons and ensure it never ever happens again.