Written by Tony Kushner
Directed by Rachel Lenart
BATS Theatre April 5 – May 5
A Bright Room Called Day is a powerful piece of political theatre – entering the theatre, melancholy music and red lighting set the atmosphere of 1932 Berlin. It began with New Year’s, joyful singing and drinking – but from then the mood of the play, characters and events spiralled. In the home of Agnes Eggling, Agnes and her fellow comrades follow the downfall of Germany, and the increased popularity of Adolf Hitler and Nazis in early 1930s Germany.
The script was written in 1985, and parallels the Reagan presidential period, using a character Zillah, on one side of the stage, periodically interrupting the main action of the play. From these interruptions, I found the audience could understand the idea of history repeating itself, although many young people currently would not know a large amount about the Reagan administration. Possibly updating this to a more current parallel could have been helpful, but many members of the audience were more mature, so would have had a greater understanding. These interruptions reflected the rest of the plays action, as Zillah was slowly becoming paranoid and neurotic, just like the characters in Berlin.
Overall, the best aspect of the play was the high quality of the acting. Not often do you find a play where all actors are of the same high standard and believability. Although in saying that, one prominent actor stood out, Victoria University’s very own Felix Preval, playing Vealtninc Husz. He was the only one who added an accent to his character, very skilfully so, and stood out as an amazing actor.
However, for such an intense and provocative play, I felt that at two and a half hours, it was slightly too long for the average playgoer. Despite this, the experience was informative and eye opening, as you got an insight into the emotions, pressures and feelings of those in 1932/1933 Berlin, and the character rebelling against the Reagan administration. Three very similar characters from different time periods were brought together in Agnes’ apartment, as they unconsciously shared similar experiences, even without knowing each other was there. It came to a climax at the end, when Zillah felt as if she was in Berlin, around the characters, and could feel what was witnessed in the apartment. They all felt a call to action to make a difference, but felt hopeless all the same. There was an effective contrast in characters throughout the play, adding to the conflict between characters, reflecting the conflict in Germany.
I definitely recommend this play, especially to those studying history, political science, theatre, or those with a general interest, as it is certainly not a simple and amusing piece of entertainment for the light-hearted. Despite that though, there are segments of amusement and joy in the midst of great peril, so one does not come out of the theatre too depressed.