Rich Pickings on Dr Korczak’s Example
Dr Korczak’s Example is a three hander with masterful direction by Leeds Playhouse’s Artistic Director James Brining and impeccably written by David Grieg. It takes place in the new theatre space Bramall Rock Void and indeed Rose Resitt’s set is mainly made of rock with red brick walls adding to the sense of austerity and alienation.
This depicts the Jewish ghetto in 1940s Warsaw where Dr Korczak runs a 200-strong orphanage under the most unbelievably inhuman treatment by the Nazis. Rob Pickavance as Korczak warns us from the very beginning that “This did happen”. Pickavance is the perfect casting for his character getting across his belief that good will triumph and that children should have certain rights.
We first meet Adzio (a revelation in Danny Sykes) when he is caught stealing in the market but Korczak intervenes and takes him to join the orphanage. This street urchin straight away gets up to mischief and is tried for stealing another boy’s bread by a child court. But as time goes on his relationship with Steph (Gemma Barnett) seems to calm his almost feral nature.
However, he still wants to fight back against the Nazis while Korkzak prefers to lead by example. The show could be accused of minimalism but sometimes less means more. It leads us to question what we would have done if in the Jewish ghetto: as Crass put it – ‘would you just watch as the cattle trucks roll by / pretend it isn’t happening turn a blind eye’. This is a moving and vital piece of theatre that tackles the difficult subject of the Holocaust with care and understanding. Most importantly it is a message of hope.
Reviewed by Rich Jevons on 30 January 2020 at Leeds Playhouse where it runs until 15 February.