The Most Precious of Goods ★★★ Marylebone Theatre | Jan 22 - Feb 3, 2024

While, perhaps, not well-known in the UK, Jean-Claude Grumberg is a celebrated French author who has won many awards for his work. This adaptation of his piece, La Plus Précieuse des Marchandises, is a fable about a poor, illiterate woodcutter's wife who uncomprehendingly watches the trains going to Nazi death camps in Poland. One day she finds a baby thrown from one of those trains, and despite all the challenges she faces, she manages to raise the child as her own daughter. Samantha Spiro narrates this parable as if it were a bedtime story and her cadences and intonation almost belie the horror of the tale she is telling. It is an effective technique to engage the audience, as the mock terrors of the fairytale are transmuted into the real outrages that took place during WWII. Unfortunately, the unvarying tone of the narrative, the simplicity of the characters and the static nature of the staging do not make for very interesting theatre. Despite being only eighty minutes in length, attention can start to wander and the impact of the moral when it is delivered can seem predictable and lacking impact. This production has been mounted to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day which is intended to recall such recent genocides as Cambodia (1975-1979), Rwanda (1994), Bosnia (1995) and Darfur (2003-2005) as well as those who suffered under the Nazi persecution. These are events that must be remembered and The Most Precious of Goods tells a story that takes on even greater poignancy when viewed in terms of present events in the Middle East.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Beresford Hodge

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