Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Tin Ring @ The Lowry, 15.10.13

“You become someone you didn’t know you were,” says Zdenka Fantlova at the start of The Tin Ring. That is what she felt when the Nazis denuded her of clothes, family and friends, violating her body, dignity and love. All that was human in her was killed, until she was barely a person at all. What remained was a shred of hope, embodied in a tin ring on a string around her neck.

The Tin Ring tells the story of holocaust survivor Fantlova, who wrote a book of the same name on which this one-person show is based. Narrated by Jane Arnfield (who adapted the book along with director Mike Alfreds), the play is split into three distinct passages, with her imprisonment in concentration camps, her love life and her post-war recuperation all addressed. Switching between first and third person narration, holding conversations with herself, Arnfield gives a performance becoming of the text: she is assured and dignified, with just a hint of a twinkle in her eye. Being in the audience took me back to infant school, where we would gather around the legs of our teacher’s chair to hear her tell stories. Fantlova’s words have that same power of wisdom from someone infinitely more experienced in life than yourself.

It is a story that requires little ornament for the telling, one where words conjure up images that you’re glad your eyes don’t have to see. That is not to say that Arnfield is static; her and director Alfreds make excellent use of her physical presence as she strides proudly, crawls abjectly and lays wearily. The single chair on which she sits becomes a door that is being kicked in by the Nazis, a machine at which she labours and a bed for her aching body, the nakedness of the prop emphasising the power of the actions. One scene in particular, where Fantlova is reunited with her lover, filled the theatre with passion and tension as Arnfield simulated their long-awaited embrace.

As the applause died away many remained in their seats; it seemed odd to be pulling on jumpers, talking to friends and getting ready to go home. It was jarring to return to a world of comfort, having heard the words of one so impoverished. In the end, The Tin Ring does not leave you feeling uplifted because Fantlova survived the holocaust, just very sad that it ever happened at all.

Words: Andrew Anderson.
Photos: Courtesy of The Lowry.

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