In the absence of memory? : Jewish fate and dramatic representation : production and critical reception of Holocaust drama on the London stage 1945-1989
Plays representing some aspect of the Holocaust produced in both the commercial and subsidised sectors of the London theatre throughout the Cold War period variously but consistently sought to evade, diminish or inappropriately qualify the cardinal fact that, in the formulation which was the Nazi's own, 'the Final Solution was that 'of the Jewish question in Europe'. Such dramatic distortions hinder perceptions of the identity and fate of the chief victims of the Holocaust. Playwrights', directors', managements', and to a marginally lesser degree, critics' failure to question or challenge these tendencies results not so much in the explicitly stated exoneration of those responsible for the Nazi genocide as the erasure or attenuation of both German guilt and Jewish suffering through dramatic speculation upon the universal human propensity to evil. In consequence the suggestion is made of Jewish agency in, and culpability for, their own fate during the Holocaust. At their most extreme these dramatic tendencies resort to the recurrent themes of anti-Semitic discourse. The ubiquitous dramatic strategies and tropes employed in the productions discussed, rather than succeed in their attempt to find and represent meaning in the respective episodes and events of the Nazi genocide dramatised, frequently re-present this elimination through the evasion, attenuation or erasure, of Jewish fate. The productions register the failure of dramatic art to find equitable metaphor and adequate representational means to provoke reflection of a kind which might transcend the meaningless facticity of mass murder and the impulse to annihilation, and are drawn into those same dynamics of annihilation, evidenced by the erasure of Jewish identity and fate. This phenomenon remains largely, but not entirely, unremarked in the immediate critical response of the British press, but almost wholly neglected in later commentary due to an 'absence of memoy: the lack of a specifically British critical discourse on dramatic representation and the Holocaust.