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Human spirit conquers adversity in The Timekeepers

Review by Emma Whitelaw

BOTH heart-warming and harrowing are the events that unfold in the small room in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany.

A most unusual friendship develops in the harshest of circumstances. Two men, Benjamin, a Jewish conservative family man, and Hans, a young German homosexual, find that they have more in common than they'd ever imagined.

Ben is an established clockmaker, the best in Germany. His job is to repair broken watches for the Nazis.

He is introduced to Hans, a new recruit who has never worked with his hands before. Together they work and together they learn that, in a life-threatening situation, if someone is not your enemy, then that someone is your friend.

Roy Horovitz is fantastic as the deliciously camp Hans. He is every bit the optimist and makes light of the hardship they must endure.

To Hans, everything is a festival. Ben, played by the incredibly talented Rami Baruch, on the other hand, is quite the opposite.

He is far more elusive and it takes much persistence from Hans to break through his tough exterior and melt his seemingly cold heart. He soon finds a common interest in which he can do so, opera.

Ben realises that, despite his own religious beliefs, Hans is perhaps not so uncouth. His knowledge of opera impresses Ben so much that he begins to warm to the loveably feminine extrovert.

After a while, Hans and Ben become comrades and they begin to form an alliance against the guard, Capo.

Played by Kobi Livne, Capo is an extraordinary character, he, too, is a prisoner, but with extended rights.

He also lives under the threat of the Nazi regime and carries with him a dignity gun, in case they should ever turn on him. To Ben and Hans, he is neither friend nor foe, yet he poses the biggest threat to them both.

Capo announces that there is no longer enough work for there to be two watch repairers. Rather than deciding, himself, who it is that should stay, and who it is that will face death, he tells the two men that they must choose their own fate.

The newly formed friendship is severely tested and I won't give the ending away, but it is indeed an astonishing twist of fate for all three men.

The intimately close space of the New End Theatre was the perfect venue for such a production.

The lighting and sound were also a befitting accompaniment. The single bulb that fell upon the dingy setting helped emphasise the dark world in which the men worked.

The tick tick ticking of clocks, between scenes, also helped in plot development. All over, it was a flawlessly stunning production.

The Timekeepers deals with issues of friendship, morality, tolerance and understanding of other's beliefs.

It is not a story of the devastating and all encompassing Holocaust, but a story of two men, who laughed, cried, fought and sang opera.

It is the Nazi Germany of two men that shared a world where social status and religious beliefs no longer existed and friendship conquered all.

The Timekeepers, written by Dan Clancy. Directed by Lee Gilat. Starring Rami Baruch, Roy Horowits and Kobi Livne. 14th April to 25th April at New End Theatre, 27 New End, Hampstead, London NW3. Box office 020 7794 0022.

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