In Kamp, (presented by the Push Festival) four members of the Dutch company Hotel Modern, recreate the death camp Auschwitz using 4-inch tall puppets made out of wire, cloth and a few dabs of glue. Most are "dressed" in striped pyjamas and a few wear SS uniforms and hats and they have few facial details except for a slightly open mouth that gives the impression that no one can quite believe what is going on. The puppeteers use a tiny hand-held camera to project the action onto the wall at the back of the stage giving the impression that we are watching a newsreel but the soundtrack draws us in and keeps us there: the cold and lonely sound of the wind whistling through the treeless compound, the sound of a truck zooming across the yard to pick up a prisoner who has thrown himself against the electrified fence or the noise of a train entering the yard to deposit another load of prisoners on the platform. Scenes in the play are disjointed and take place at different places on the stage but together they create an experience that is more moving than a movie or a book (the scene of prisoners undressing to reveal their transparent bodies and then entering the gas chamber is much too shocking to be included in a movie) and even though prisoners die in various ways during the performance, for me the most compelling scene took place in the barracks at night when all the prisoners are crowded into their bunks and all we hear is their collective breathing.
There are so many layers of meaning in this short piece (the "machinery" of the Holocaust, the lack of free will, the fragility of the human body, the hope that we cling to right to the end, the inhumanity of places that humans create) that I'm still trying to digest it all. The Q&A afterwards helped, but the haunting sight of the miniature pieces of luggage that lay strewn on the train platform in the middle of the stage kept drawing my attention away from the conversation.
Catch performances of Kamp on Friday or Saturday at 8 pm at the Roundhouse, but get there early to buy tickets at the door—this is a popular show.
If you miss it, here's a clip: