Leicester Square is the heart of London’s theatreland. On a warm Autumn evening, the crowds were surging into the theatres, restaurants, and cinemas. A scene of glittering lights, the vast noise of chattering crowds, the background roar of traffic.
The contrast with the scenes depicted in Kolbe’s Gift, the play being presented in Leicester Place, just off the Square, could not have been greater. It is Poland, with the German occupation and a threat of arrest. The friar, Maximillian Kolbe, is denounced and taken to prison and eventually to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, not far from Krakow. Here, in conditions of misery and hunger, there is bitterness, anger, theft and hatred. And, when some one tries to escape, ruthless reprisals from the Commandant. A random selection is made of men who will be sent to a starvation bunker, to die there slowly, in filth and thirst, lingering day after day while the guards listen to their screams and their begging for water…
One man selected blurts out a cry of agony “My wife! My children! What will become of them?” And from the ranks, a thin man in spectacles steps forward, volunteering to take his place. Asked why he is doing such a thing, he answer simply, in words that – though he does not know it – will ring through history “I am a Catholic priest”. Vowed to celibacy for God’s kingdom, he has no wife or family. He can offer himself, giving the other man the gift of hope and of life.
Kolbe’s Gift, presented by the Ten Ten Theatre, is a fine production. It gets you thinking, pondering, talking, praying. The Ten Ten Theatre has, over recent years, steadily made a name for itself by the excellence of its drama: the group sends superb teams of professional actors into schools, prisons, youth centres, and community groups presenting plays that have a message. It is doing magnificent work. Catholic in inspiration, it is non-sectarian and has a message for everyone.
Kolbe’s Gift is the latest in a great range of productions. Some have directly tackled major issues such as youth crime, violence, anger, the tragedy of aborting a baby, the complications of family break-up. Others like, Kolbe’s Gift, simply tell a true story that raises deep questions about love, sacrifice, heroism, and the meaning of life itself.<p></p>
Good theatre is a rich part of Catholic tradition. Theatre is linked to the essence of human communication, to the use of human speech and the value of words, to exploring spiritual depths and pondering the mystery of man and of God.
Blessed John Paul was a man of the theatre – he spent his youth in occupied Poland, where an underground drama group kept alive the rich traditions of Polish plays and poetry. Fittingly, the next production of the Ten Ten Theatre is to be a play exploring those years, and the life and message of the young Karol Woytila. Find out mpore by checking out the Ten Ten website: http://tententheatre.co.uk/