Review: Nivelli’s War at The MAC
March 6, 2014 Laura Caldwell 1 Comment
Nivelli’s War is a brand new production from Cahoots NI, written by Charles Way it is inspired by a true story and tells a mysterious tale of war, friendship and magic.
As I enter The MAC, I’m not entirely sure what I’ve let myself in for, the theatre seems to be packed with children and the staff are handing out chocolate eggs for easter… However, as I settle down to watch the performance, the children quieten down and to my surprise, I barely hear a peep throughout the rest of the show. That’s the effect that Nivelli’s War has, it whisks you away completely, with a sparse set, the use of smoke, a single red balloon and a make-shift cart the audience is transported back to Second World War Germany, where fathers are absent and children are shipped off to the countryside.
As the lights begin to go down, they flicker several times and before we know it an old man, dressed in a top hat and tails makes his way across the empty stage. It soon becomes clear that this is the Great Nivelli himself, but as he talks to a stage hand, he appears tired and slightly confused. He holds up a red balloon, and we see his mind wander back to when he was a child. Here, we meet young Ernst, a 6 year old boy (played by Sam Clemmett) who is forced to move to the country with his Tante Sophie. After being left alone at the end of the war, Ernst meets a vagabond, a strange man who goes by the name Mr H (played by Bob Kelly) and is taken on a journey back to his home town of Frankfurt. A journey filled with highs and lows, Russian soldiers and kind strangers.
Despite being for children, Nivelli’s War doesn’t hold back. As an audience we are immersed in the war – from the trauma of an air raid, to the disturbing scene where Ernst’s Tante Sophie goes mad. The play is quite dark, visually it’s beautiful to look at. Looking around me one thing’s clear, the kids love it, and it’s definitely entertaining enough for adults to see on their own. It’s not all serious though, there are some genuinely touching and funny moments in the play to balance out the seriousness, like the scene where Mr H teaches Ernst the subtleties of shrugging, which had the whole room giggling away. The use of meagre lighting, smoke and monotone colours really capture the war and the cast even speak with German accents for authenticity. The use of illusion is also very well done, there isn’t too much, just enough to capture your imagination.
Overall, Nivelli’s War is a very sophisticated piece of theatre, with the help of the complex characters, the use of shadows and the delicate piano music (scored by Garth McConaghie) between scenes, a magic, cinematic, almost dreamlike experience is created that everyone can enjoy.
On until the 11th March – get your tickets here.