The Nuffield Theatre’s associate director Russ Tunney has written and directs Shelter currently playing in the venue’s studio. It is a drama set in the dying days of World War II, and concentrates on three strangers who, as battle rages around them, take refuge in a shelter. All three have lost their way, and are in fear for their lives.
As they begin to relax and talk in the relative safety of the shelter, a new danger emerges as their identities become apparent – an Allied pilot, a German soldier and a young Jewish woman. Feelings of conflict, resolution, hatred, alliance, duty and responsibility follow.
The three-strong cast (Jonathan Eio, Stacey Evans and Thomas Brownlee work well together and are on stage throughout, with a palpable sense of tension rising throughout the piece. Tunney’s direction is tight, on an evocatively claustrophobic and dimly-lit set (designed by Michaela Kemp) and in the confines of the Nuffield Studio.
At a little under one hour, the play does not develop the characters in as much depth as I would like. The narrative follows a well-trodden path with little fresh insight into the psychology or experience of those caught up in the horrors of the Holocaust.
For those unfamiliar with that darkest period of 20th century history, the play does inform, and the various interludes of free verse challenge our prejudices and beliefs, so is successful, if somewhat limited, in want it sets out to achieve. Extended to two acts, giving time to develop the protagonists beyond the more obvious characterisations, Shelter will be a fine, thought-provoking, play.