Written for Belfast based Cahoots, NI, Nivelli’s War is set in Germany in the aftermath of World War II where displaced people are desperately trying to return home to find their loved ones. Six-year-old Ernst is an evacuee who finds himself alone on his aunt’s farm two hundred kilometers from Frankfurt am Main with only a mysterious chicken thief to turn to for help. The story of the unlikely bond between Mr H (the thief) and Ernst, and their difficult journey home is literally conjured up before our eyes by a world famous, yet strangely weary, magician – the Mr. Nivelli of the play’s title. As he prepares on stage for the night’s performance, he blows up a balloon that transports us back through time to key moments in the past that still tug at his mind: the parting with his mother after a devastating bombing of the city; his aunt Sophie wandering off insane with grief; the cart Mr H makes from his uncle’s bicycle in order to carry the boy along the road; the Russian soldiers Mr H distracts with sleight-of-hand tricks; and an aristocrat and her butler hiding out in a boarded-up mansion who offer the travelers a rare evening of respite – a warm fire and a decent meal. The acclaimed magician has devoted his life to the art that his friend and saviour taught him, a friend who he learns was a Jew and whose survival in Nazi Germany seems to have been for the sole purpose of delivering little Ernst back into his mother’s arms. How to repay such a debt? Can Ernst or any of us, trapped in the inhumanity of war, ever become whole again?
Scenes: 11. Roles: Male (8) , Female (3) , Neutral (0)