Nachtland ★★★ — Jewish Renaissance

When Nicola seizes the opportunity call out Israel for its ongoing persecution of Palestinians, it is uncomfortably topical, especially as Judith challenges the antisemitism underlying her attitude. But, rather than carefully unpacking this complexity, the writer doesn’t know what to do with either side of the debate and leaves it hanging as a discarded thread – one of many in the play.

As a concept, Nachtland is an intriguing and unsettling undertaking. Played in the original German, and in a modern Germany working hard to renew itself in light of its past, despite the current creeping rise of a new nationalism and fascism, its questions of Holocaust legacy must be potent. However, its European bite doesn’t quite transfer to the British stage. In English, the writing feels less sharply urgent than one might expect, especially given the current political realities in the Middle East and antisemitism in the UK.

Perhaps it’s that circumstances have served to dilute the play’s impact, as the unexpected horrific events of 7 October last year, and the responses to them, have swiftly changed the Weltanschauung of so many worldwide, at a time when presumably the production was already well underway. Unfortunately, the result is that – despite its wit, philosophical explorations of darkness and clever lighting techniques – Nachtland is ultimately unilluminating.

By Judi Herman and Aviva Dautch

Photos by Ellie Kurttz

Nachtland runs until Saturday 20 April. 7.30pm, 2.30pm (Wed & Sat only). From £24. Young Vic Theatre, London, SE1 8LZ.

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