A dark and moving performance, ‘Over There’ follows the story of identical twin brothers who were separated by the Berlin Wall. Their mother escaped to the West with Franz (played by Sasha Gibson), while Karl (Anna Scholes) remained in East Germany with their father.
Years later, Karl crossed the border to reach out to his brother. While the downfall of the Berlin Wall was an extremely uplifting occasion, and they were free to see each other whenever they wished, dark events followed. They may have been physically free, but the effects of life before such a barrier remained.
Written by Mark Ravenhill, ‘Over There’ was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London in 2009. The production at the Nottingham New Theatre may have had only few props (a projector screen and a sofa), but this did not stop the performance from being fantastic.
“This performance certainly took me on an emotional journey”
In fact, it was an advantage, as the audience could focus on the amazing acting of the two girls on stage. Yes, two girls (who looked very different) played identical twin brothers, but their acting was so good that it did not make a difference. The dim lighting and empty stage set the tone for how sinister the performance would be, involving themes of suicide and even cannibalism.
A key issue I found evident in the performance was the struggle with identity after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Karl stayed with Franz for a while, and it became clear that Karl did not know how to behave in his now undivided world, as he was used to Communism. He appeared to almost steal his brother’s identity, as he did not have one of his own.
It was seemingly harmless at first; he started wearing Franz’s suit, and they said the same thing at the same time (which you would probably expect twins to do). However, it became increasingly sinister. Karl revealed that he went into his brother’s work place and pretended to be him for a day, and nobody even noticed.
Karl’s conflict with his identity was even projected on to Franz’s young son. Karl encouraged him to repeat a certain chant in support of socialism to his father, although he was too young to understand what it meant.
I noticed that the boy’s name was never mentioned, suggesting that children are born as blank slates and that they can easily be brainwashed into a certain identity. This distressed Franz so much that he carried out a drastic and fatal action, leaving the audience in stunned silence.
Overall, this performance certainly took me on an emotional journey. Important issues of history and politics were successfully explored in only eighty minutes, demonstrating the effect political events can have on relationships and identity. This was the first performance I watched at Nottingham New Theatre, and I can surely say that it won’t be the last.
Rating – 9/10