07 February 2019, The Tablet

Dramatic debut


Dramatic debut

Rosenbaum’s Rescue
Park Theatre, London

Modern plays set in Denmark invoke ghosts of both the greatest dramatist – Shakespeare, whose Hamlet takes place there – and the second best: Henrik Ibsen, who, although Norwegian, wrote in Danish, at a time in the nineteenth century when his birthplace was effectively an extension of its neighbour. Rosenbaum’s Rescue, a tremendous first play by Anglo-Danish screenwriter, A. Bodin Saphir, consciously interacts with both these Scandinavian dramatic models.

The narrative mystery and moral jeopardy in the central situation are rivetingly Ibsenite. In 2001, just after a new Danish government has been elected on an anti-immigration platform, Lars, a bestselling historian, visits his old friend Abraham, who is celebrating the eighth and final night of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. The visitor wishes to interview his host as part of the research for a book on what is colloquially called the “Danish Miracle” – when, in 1943, the majority of Denmark’s Jews escaped a Nazi round-up, a likely prelude to incarceration, in an emergency midnight flotilla to Sweden.

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