The Lowry, Salford – 29 October 2019
Reviewed by Joseph Everton
The Escape Act: A Holocaust Memoir, created and performed by Israeli artist Stav Meishar, is a retelling of the story of Jewish Acrobat, Irene Danner-Storm. Bringing a Schindler’s List style story to a small stage is an incredible challenge but Meishar, acting alone, uses trapeze, puppetry and song to give an emotional tale a unique, innovative and watchable twist.
Irene Danner-Storm grew up with the circus in her blood. Her mother’s side, the Lorch family, ran a world-renowned circus in Germany for generations. However, the rise of the Nazi party, and antisemitism in Germany and Europe, forced the family out of business. Irene turned to the Althoff circus and owner, Adolf Althoff, for a job. At a time when hiring Jews was illegal, Althoff provided a haven for the young acrobat, hiding her from persecution and, ultimately, death.
Setting puppets and costume aside, Stav Meishar, a third generation Holocaust survivor herself, dons her glasses, addresses the audience and brings a personal feel to the tale by breaking from the narrative to tell the story of her own family during the 1940s. A reminder of the unimaginable human cost of the Holocaust and repercussions felt decades later, Meisher documents her despair at her own flesh and blood having their story snatched away from them.
Although the story of the Holocaust is harrowing and Danner-Storm’s experiences difficult to watch, Meishar manages to add colour, humour and personality to the tale, doing justice to Danner-Storm, her family and the circus folk who shielded her from the Nazis. Last night was the final outing in The Escape Act’s tour of the UK but, when such a brilliant and incredibly important show inevitably returns, it is a must watch.