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On February 21st 1940 it was decided that the former Polish artillery barracks in Oswiecim, south western Poland, would be used as a quarantine camp, intended to hold 10,000 prisoners.

Five years later this decision had led to the deaths of at least 1,500,000 people.

Auschwitz/Birkenau was in fact two seperate camps, the largest being at Birkenau. At the height of its power Birkenau held more than 200,000 prisoners.

Birkenau was also the single greatest killing centre ever conceived by mankind. It had within its grounds four purpose built gas chambers each one equipped with its own crematoria.

People were shipped to Birkenau from all over Europe, either to be worked to death or to be gassed upon arrival. The 1,500,000 people known to have died there included men women and children.

Ashes to Ashes is the story of two of those people.

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Ashes to Ashes is an exploration of the human spirit.

Two men arrive at Birkenau from different parts of Europe. They are separated from their families upon arrival. Thrown together by a barbaric selection process, they are welcomed into the camp by a smiling guard who proceeds to strip, beat, shave and finally tattoo them. After they have been given inmate uniforms and assigned to a barrack we discover that one of them, Moshe, is Jewish and from Crete. The other, Hirsch, is also Jewish and from Berlin.

Moshe explains to Hirsch that the journey from Crete has taken fourteen days. He describes how he has watched his mother and baby niece die during the tortuous trip. From this moment on we follow them through beatings, work, starvation and humiliation. We watch as they form a friendship that cannot be broken, firstly by the brutality of the guards and ultimately by entrance to the gas chamber.

We see that even death cannot triumph over friendship and spirit.

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The Stage

"Totally brutal, genuinely harrowing and supremely powerful."

Badac Theatre Company's wonderful directorial devices make this look at the inhumane hell of Birkenau extermination camp into an unforgettable experience that is totally brutal, genuinely harrowing and supremely powerful. The first ot these - the most effective in realising the pain that Hirsch (Dan Robb) and Mosche (Ben Read) endure in their day-to-day torment - is the bashing of a club by the nameless block officer (Steve Lambert, who also writes and directs) against two hanging sheets of metal. All three men are in a wide triangle, individually lit by spotlights. As the officer beats the metal, the victim writhes in agony.

"Work!" the officer shouts. Five seconds in the show are five hours in real time. "Coffee!" The prisoners crouch to drink muddied water.

It's brilliantly intense stuff, with the audience becoming involved as members are spotlighted when a roll-call is shouted from the stage.

With forceful acting, the humanity is tentatively explored through the prisoners trying to retain their dignity before their deaths with positIve memories, and the absence of a curtain-call leaves the audience speechless.
Cameron Robertson

The List

"powerful and touching"

Do we really need any more Holocaust literature? Of course we do, and lots more-if only it could all be as good as this. "ASHES TO ASHES" charts the friendship of three young Jewish men in Auschwitz, and manages to be noisy, violent, and shocking, as well as powerful and touching, if the furtive sniffling of the audience is anything to go by.

The play grabs you by the throat and forces you to ask yourself what you would do in a similar situation, and how we can prevent these atrocities from happening again. If any simple performance addresses these questions, then surely this is the one.

The Scotsman

Steve Lambert, the young actor who wrote this vibrant and telling play, also directed it, and in it he portrays an Auschwitz Kapo, suprisingly mightily, with his depth and wisdom. Yet, the play is yet another Holocaust interpretation but, without telegraphing, it cleverly circumvents any jaded preconceptions and sheds fresh light on thoughts commonly kept in the darker, seldom visited recesses of modern consciousness.

Initially, under ghastly yellow lights, as the young men create a microcosm of the sights and sounds of Auschwitz, you think that this will be another of those raw, in-your-face productions that young men are good at. But you soon begin to see Lambert's grander plan. One night, as Hersch from Berlin and Moshe from Corfu lies in their bunks, Hersch asks Moshe: "Where is God?" And the desolation of that failure of belief communicates itself immediately.

Lambert also plays Philip, from the Sonderkommandos, the unit of Jews chosen to herd their fellows into the chambers and turn on the gas. Philip comes to Hersch and Moshe at night and gently tells the story of his life before Auschwitz, and how a young friend of his, Marla, a virgin, knowing death lay in wait for her, had asked him to have sex with her. But he could not, because of his love for her.

Hersch is calmed by this realises that God does not leave His people, that He is with them in the decisions He leaves them to make, even when the only decision left is whether to keep going till they come for you or to give up and die.
Bonnie Lee

British Theatre Guide

How to describe this play? The Jewish Chronicle, when they saw it in its try-out run in London , called it "an extremely moving play about the holocaust which strives less to tell what went on in the death camps than to show it." But that description is inadequate: it doesn't convey the emotional power of the piece. Perhaps we should change that word "show" to "share", for we share the experiences of Philip, Hirsch and Moshe, the play's three characters. This is theatre pared down to its basic essentials: three characters, a black box setting, minimal props, and a spare, simply lighting plot. Much of the time the protagonists address the audience directly, even, at times, when they are talking to each other.

Stripping away the inessentials throws an enormous burden on the writer and the actors, for everything depends upon them. This could be a recipe for disaster - indeed, it has been in the past - but not here. The writing is tight and the performances - writer Steve Lambert as Philip, Ben Read as Moshe, and Dan Robb as Hirsch - intense but controlled. The result is a hard-hitting piece which leaves the audience stunned and deeply moved.

Wisely the company do not take a curtain call but leave the audience to sit in silence as the house lights come up. It took a minute or two before the applause began, not because of any lack of appreciation but because it took us that long to return to the reality of the theatre.
Peter Latham

Scotland on Sunday

From the inspired silliness of Moliere and MacMillan to writer, director and actor Steve Lambert's profoundly moving, deeply horrifying Holocaust play ASHES TO ASHES. A finely constructed combination of narrative, dialogue, monologue and physical theatre, Badac Theatre Company's piece evokes the almost unimaginable terror and mauled, yet unbroken, humanity of the Nazi death camps with a rare power. That this is Lambert's playwriting debut truly beggars belief.

In terms reminiscent of Athol Fugard's great anti-apartheid drama THE ISLAND, Lambert has created a work which plays directly to live theatre's unique capacities to reflect human brutality, suffering and fortitude. He achieves an unarguable truth about the genocide at Auschwitz in ways which literary or cinematic realism simply cannot do. As a repulsively morally degenerate camp guard, excellently played by Lambert himself, he terrorises a group of Jewish prisoners, his blows upon two metal sheets suspended from the ceiling represent the violent interruptions to his victims sleep or rest as effectively as they do his physical assaults upon them.

The physical performances of Dan Robb and Ben Read could hardly portray the barbarities of the terrible labour and sick emotional tortures of the death camps with greater potency.

The language of the play, which is saturated in anguished pathos, dehumanising hatred and tangible compassion, fits the piece's physical element perfectly. What emerges with ever greater, and ultimately almost unbearable, force is a play so undeniable and penetrating that one is compelled to consider the greatest philosophical questions about humanity's nature and it's propensities for boundless evil and enduring altruism.

ASHES TO ASHES is another reminder, alongside such works as Primo Levi's extraordinary books, that art has the ability to puncture our incomprehension of the Holocaust and prevent the barbarism from silencing its victims. As the play reaches its overwhelming conclusion it engenders an incredible empathy with two dying men, and thus with the millions who died at the hands of the Nazis, which exemplifies theatre's potential and its purpose.
Mark Brown

Jewish Chronicle

Three men are reciting Rosh Hashanah prayers-a typical New Year in any synagogue. The difference is that this is Auschwitz . Badac Theatre Company's new work, ASHES TO ASHES, is an extremely moving play about the Holocaust which strives less to tell what went on in the death camps than to show it. Writer/Director Steve Lambert also plays Philip, "your guide for this evening," a Jew who has to watch the extermination of his fellow inmates as he is forced to skivvy for the SS.

He focuses attention on the experiences of Hirsch (Dan Robb) and Moshe (Ben Read) from the moment they enter Auschwitz , where they are "greeted" by a smiling Nazi (also played by Lambert).

With few props-two copper plates and a baseball bat-an empty, black draped set and stark, precise lighting, the bleakness, regimentation and horror of the camp are forcefully conveyed. It is expertly choreographed, with Robb and Read mirroring each others movements at either side of the stage, and portraying a reaction to beatings-shockingly indicated by the baseball bat hitting the copper-without ever being near their assailant.

It's a harrowing, even traumatic, play, but also uplifting in its portrayal of the strength of human spirit, and the power of a friendship which even the Nazis could not break. If you are only ever going to see one play about the Holocaust, in my view, it should be this one.
Alix Buscovic

What's on

The London opening of Steve Lambert's excellent first play neatly coincided with a goverment announcement that January 27th 2001 is to be designated the British Holocaust remembrance day. Thia date marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz- Birkenau concentration camp: the setting for Lambert's powerful, distressing but thoughtful work. The audience enters the appropriately dingy and subterranean space to discover three actors chanting the Rosh Hashanah prayer, in which the supplicants repeatedly exhort "Our Father, Our King" to forgive and protect them. The performers then ascend the central aisle of the audience and from amidst the spectators relate their histories.

Philip, played by Lambert, introduces himself as our guide for the evening. In chillingly understated style he tells of the growth of Auschwitz and the installation of the gas chambers. Philip is a Sonderkammando ; a member of the unit who were forced to usher Jews and other victims of the Nazis into the chambers-a job which has, of course, provoked much controversy.

The two other characters then speak of their origins and their journeys to the camp. Moshe (Ben Read) is a rabbi's son from Corfu and has been trucked several hundred miles in appalling conditions. He has witnessed the deaths of his mother and other family even before reaching Auschwitz : all his prayers being to no avail. Hirsch (Dan Robb) is from a Berlin-Jewish household. In an echo of Anne Frank, the children of his family were sent to Amsterdam to avoid persecution, only to be captured during the invasion of Holland.

The gentle, almost wistful, manner of these reflections is smashed to smithereens on arrival at the camp. Lambert also plays the Nazi overseer who brutally initiates Hirsch and Moshe into the hellish world of Auschwitz . The beatings he administers and the wake up, work and roll calls which make up camp life are represented by his hitting two metal strips which hang at the back of the set. This clamour is accentuated by the lights which repeatedly dazzle the audience, drawing us into the experience.

The constant degradation and exhaustion the two suffer is enough to make anyone lose their faith. As the friends try and face their almost inevitable death with dignity, the debate about ethics in adversity which has swirled through the piece seems almost irrelevant, and we are left simply with the strongest sense of anger at the wrong which was done. Badac's ASHES TO ASHES is humane, political art of the highest order.
Joe McCallum

Rogues and Vagabounds

Produced by Joe and Emma Brookes, for one night it was at the Riverside Studios where Steve as Philip and the Guard and Joe Gooch as Moshe and Dan Robb playing Hirsh presented a harsh reminder that Birkenau was no holiday camp. Moshe, a Jew from Crete and Hirsch, a Jew from Berlin arrive at Birkenau from different parts of Europe. Thrown together by a barbaric selection process, they are welcomed into the camp by a guard who proceeds to strip, beat, shave and finally tattoo them. We follow them through torturous beatings and humiliation to work and exercise. Despite this they form a friendship that cannot be broken, firstly by the brutality of the guards and ultimately by entrance to the gas chamber.

Their costumes designed by Julie Ripley add to the sense of realism. Lambert has clearly immersed himself in the subject and to his credit this comes through in his writing, directing and acting which are all outstanding in equal measure. At times he points with the baton to members of the audience shouting ‘Out Cunt '. This succeeds in giving you more than an inkling of what it meant to live at a concentration camp.

Dan Robb's performance is superb in forcing you to feel the pain and degradation that his character must have undergone. For those that go to the theatre to be moved (and if not, then what's the point of the experience?), then this superb political play presented by Badac Theatre Company will not disappoint. I urge you to catch them when they next perform, wherever the location.
Sharon Garfinkel

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Booking Tour for 2008
Please contact us if you are interested in having
Ashes To Ashes visit your venue.
Please contact Badac Theatre for all booking enquiries
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