First seen in a tryout last summer at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, Imagine This, which is currently booking until 28 February 2009, revolves around a group of Polish actors in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 who stage plays to inspire hope and optimism within the Jewish community. However, with rumours of the Final Solution in the air, their play merges with the reality they are trying to escape and a dramatic love story unfolds.
Imagine This has music by Shuki Levy, lyrics by David Goldsmith and a book by Glenn Berenbeim. It’s directed by Open Air artistic director Timothy Sheader and designed by Eugene Lee, who won both a Tony and a Whatsonstage.com Award for Wicked, with choreography by DV8’s Liam Steel. The principal West End cast features Leila Ben Harris, Simon Gleeson and Peter Polycarpou, who reprises his role from the Plymouth run (See News, 26 Aug 2008).
For most overnight critics, the attempt of Imagine This to find hope in the Holocaust was beyond the stretch of their collective imaginations. This morning’s reviews contained an almost universal theme – that despite director Timothy Sheader’s best efforts and some “valiant” performances from the cast, the show hit a dud note due to its “historically false” and “morally dubious” depiction of the Warsaw ghetto. There were some positives amid the gloom, notably the “stoic dignity” of Polycarpou and the “soaring anthems” of Levy and Goldsmith (even if their “trivial” lyrics came in for some heavy criticism). But overall it looks as if the New London is suffering a serious case of déjà vu.
- by Theo Bosanquet