Friday, 14 December 2018

‘Good read’ sparked one-man play to life

THE revival of a hard-hitting play that received five-star reviews when it was performed at

THE revival of a hard-hitting play that received five-star reviews when it was performed at the Edinburgh Festival is coming to the Town Hall Chambers next week as part of the Henley Fringe and Film Festival.

Written and performed by David Prince of Mercury Theatre Wales, Nine Suitcases is based on the book of the same title by Béla Zsolt, the author of one of the earliest Holocaust memoirs.

An anti-establishment Hungarian-Jewish author and journalist labelled “decadent” by his enemies, Zsolt’s output included poetry, countless articles and seven novels.

The protagonist of Nine Suitcases is a thinly disguised version of Zsolt himself. He presents us with a minimally fictionalised account of his own experience as a Hungarian Jew suffering Nazi and Hungarian Fascist persecution during the Second World War.

Incarcerated in a Jewish ghetto in 1944, he became involved in an audacious but unlikely plan to escape deportation to Auschwitz — an episode central to the plot of Nine Suitcases.

As David Prince recalls, he was first introduced to the book by a 2010 edition of Radio 4’s A Good Read introduced by the novelist and cultural commentator Norman Lebrecht.

“Lebrecht’s emphatic enthusiasm for the book convinced me I needed to read it, and once I’d obtained a copy and had got stuck into it I found I couldn’t help myself visualising Nine Suitcases as a potential one-man show,” he said.

“To date, audiences have been eager to share stories and insights of their own after seeing the play — a tendency that has led us to host post-show discussions whenever possible.

“Perhaps most remarkable was the case of an elderly lady in the audience at the Hungarian Cultural Centre in Covent Garden. Coming forward after the performance she explained that, aged eight, she had been in the same ghetto as Zsolt and still retained clear memories of him.

“Zsolt’s story is compelling not just because of the extraordinary and shocking events he witnessed and experienced. What also commands attention is the quality of the writing, often wry and sardonic in tone, reflecting Zsolt’s outstandingly unsentimental, non-self-pitying view of life.”

Showtime on Friday and Saturday is 7pm. Tickets are £9. To book, visit the website

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