City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Ruhe (Silence)

By Barbara Bryan - Posted on 22 August 2008

Show details
The Hub
Muziektheater Transparant and Collegium Vocale Gent
Running time: 
Josse De Pauw (concept and director), Christoph Siebert (musical director), Herman Sorgeloos (stage design), Van Parys (music)
Dirk Roofthooft and Carly Wijs (actors), Members of the Collegium Vocale Gent ensemble

Ruhe - which means "silence" in German - is an extraordinary piece of theatre. It deals with the thorny subject of Dutch citizens voluntarily collaborating with the SS Brownshirts during the second world war after Holland had been invaded by the Nazis. The performance juxtaposes a selection of Schubert's serene "partsongs" with monologues taken from transcripts of interviews with the volunteers.

The introduction was most unusual. With no stage, the choir and actors were integrated with the audience who were seated in a circle. When the performance began, twelve male singers from the Baroque ensemble Collegium Vocale Gent stood up on chairs and began serenading us with Schubert's songs. The state of tranquillity was rudely interrupted however by a female character - one of the collaborators (played by Carly Wijs). A nurse, and a member of the Dutch Nationalist Socialist party, the way she recounted her tale she sounded quite innocent. Thrilled to have seen Hitler when he visited her hospital, the monologue almost persuaded you that she had been coerced into working alongside the SS. But of course that's not how her compatriots would have seen it.

When she finished her tale, she sat down in the audience, the ensemble stood up and continued to entertain us with their exceptional melodious voices. Soon after a man in the audience started to cough. Interrupting the sound of the singing he eventually stood up and began relating his reasons for collaborating. Dramatically performed by Dirk Roofthooft, he walked in amongst the audience and talked of the poverty at the time and how he was told there was work in Germany - that's what persuaded him to side with the enemy. And that is the link between the collaborators - they were just ordinary people, "perfectly normal guys," whose sole raison d'etre was to survive. But their choices have meant they are left in a state of permanent penance and we are left to contemplate their enduring pain, mirrored in the mournful notes of the last partsong.

Times: Aug 21-24 at 20:00 (sold out)