Review: Laughing In The Dark

By John Nathan, October 23, 2008

New End Theatre, London NW3

You don't have to be Freud to guess that a persecuted, Jewish, gay, ventriloquist might benefit from analysis. In this one-man two-hander, written and performed by South African Graeme Messer, therapy has come a little late for Holocaust survivor Nathan. On his 100th birthday, he has returned from the dead to rake over the past with his alter ego Otto, the eerie ventriloquist's doll who partnered him in a cabaret act before being separated from his owner when Nathan was sent to a concentration camp. Otto, meanwhile, was pressed into service entertaining Nazis - though not on his own, obviously.

It is hard to shake the sense the play and Chrys Salt's production exists more to provide a vehicle for Messer's particular talents and preoccupations than to tell the story of entertainers trapped by the Holocaust. Otto and Nathan are the classic dominant doll/submissive human case study. In just 60 minutes Messer's themes are not fully explored, but in the quick-fire exchanges he tells Nathan's and Otto's story with a great deal of skill, and for the most part without moving his lips.

Tel: 0870 033 2733

Last updated: 11:34am, October 23 2008