The Work: Plays

Badenheim 1939

1987, (27m 12w. 6 man band. Chamber trio. As many extras as possible. Scope for much doubling)


An adaptation of the novel by Aharon Appelfeld. It contains so many characters it can only be performed by a National Theatre or University Theatre Department with large resources.

It's a chilling novel. Badenheim is a spa to which middle-class, bohemian Jews have been coming year after year. At its centre is an arts festival. In 1939 strange happenings occur. Sanitary inspectors gradually take over the spa and inform it's Jewish residents that soon they'll be going to Poland.

Barbed wire springs up around the small town, guard dogs proliferate, other Jews appear, herded into the area, and the facilities begin to break down or cease to function. Over the summer the spa falls to pieces.

On the last day all the Jews are marched to the station for transport to Poland. Some are quite looking forward to the journey. They imagine it will be a train that takes them to their destination. When cattle trucks draw up, the festival organiser, ever optimistic, observes:


"Well! If the coaches are so dirty it must mean that we have not far to go."