Dr Korczak’s Example is the first production of the year to take place at Leeds Playhouse’s Bramall Rock Void. It will run from 25 January until 15 February.
Rehearsals are well under way, with Leeds actor Robert Pickavance playing the title role, and Gemma Barnett with Danny Sykes under the direction of James Brining.
The premiere is timed for Holocaust Memorial Day and is set in the shadows of the Warsaw ghetto in 1942, highlighting the work of Polish author and educator Dr Janusz Korczak. Dr Korczak championed young people and influenced the creation of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. It was James Brining who commissioned David Greig to write the play 20 years ago, when he was running a children’s theatre company -TAG – in Scotland.
James said: “I’ve done quite a few things more than once, but I never intended to go back to this piece again. I was really happy with the original production. Then a year or so ago I came across a statistic that showed quite a high number of people – maybe 18 to 20 per cent – thought the Nazi holocaust was exaggerated, with a slightly smaller number saying it was completely fabricated. I was really struck and shocked by that because when I grew up, it was a very present thing.
On a very personal level, revisiting the play has made me ask if I’m the same person I was 20 years ago. Having children has changed the way I see the play and, perhaps, explains why I was so moved when I read it again. I’m not saying that having children gives you more of a profound understanding, but it does give you a different perspective. And I’m just older, so I can now align myself quite strongly with Korczak.
I think that’s the measure of a really great piece of theatre – it speaks to you differently according to who you are and where you are. Having children, being older, the world being a slightly different place, even having more distance from 1942, all of these things affect the way you engage with it. But as I watched rehearsals yesterday, I was really moved. The power of the play is still very potent.”
Design is by Hebden Bridge designer Rose Revitt, recent winner of the Linbury Prize for Stage Design.
Box office: 0113 213 7700; leedsplayhouse.org.uk
Rehearsal photographs by Zoe Martin.
Adam combines his interest in Leeds with a flair for writing discovered back in school days. He says he’ll tackle any topic as long as it’s Leeds.