University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > German Graduate Research Seminar > Laughter as a response to the Holocaust: an affront or a necessity? Reality and Illusion in the Theresienstadt concentration camp

Laughter as a response to the Holocaust: an affront or a necessity? Reality and Illusion in the Theresienstadt concentration camp

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In his talk Roy Kift will introduce the sketches and songs offered by the Czech and German Jewish inmates in the Theresienstadt (Terezin) concentration camp. He will then discuss the relative merits of tragedy and comedy in portraying the horrific experiences of the holocaust, and highlight the techniques he uses to reflect the relationship between reality and illusion in his holocaust play “Camp Comedy”. The talk will include brief excursions into the history of the Theresienstadt camp, the relationship between the cabaret artists’ attitudes to illusion and a “method” acting technique as used by the likes of James Dean and Marlon Brando, and certain connection between stock characters in ancient Greek Comedy and characters in “Camp Comedy.“

Roy Kift’s play “Camp Comedy” (published in “The Theatre of the Holocaust” vol 2, the University of Wisconsin Press) deals with the dilemma of the actor and film director Kurt Gerron (the man who first sang “Die Morität von Mackie Messer” in Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, and later starred alongside Marlene Dietrich in “The Blue Angel”) in having to shoot a “documentary” film about the “sweet life“ of the Jews in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Excerpts from Gerron’s film can be found on Youtube.

This talk is part of the German Graduate Research Seminar series.

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