Dr Korczak’s Example

Aug 24 2019 | By More

★★★★☆    Exemplary

Scottish Storytelling Centre (Venue 30): Wed 21 – Sun 25 Aug 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is both bleakness and hope in Dr Korczak’s Example, Strange Town’s production which has made a return to the Fringe at the Storytelling Centre.

David Greig’s 2001 play aimed at younger audiences is set in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Second World War. The doctor of the title is the director of an orphanage who is struggling to hold on to his belief in humanity, and in the rights of young people, in the face of one of the worst times in history.

Fraser MacRae and Lianne Harris. Pic: Andy Catlin.

Strange Town’s aim to give young people creative chances is reflected in the efforts of a talented cast as well as the subject matter. Fraser Dodds is an upstanding Korczak, with Lianne Harris and Fraser MacRae as two of the young orphans. The three of them, as well as other characters, are also represented by Nicola Milazzo’s elegant puppets.

There is a stark clarity to the storytelling and Steve Small’s direction that gives it considerable emotional pull. Katie Innes’s evocative design adds notably to this.

This beautifully straightforward approach to telling the story glides through some longueurs in the narrative. The story is oddly balanced, with the growing affection between Harris’s initially stuck-up Stephanie and MacRae’s rough-diamond Adzio taking up a great deal of time.


However, this does give the performers a chance to show off their emotional range – something also demonstrated by each of them also performing a second role with some conviction. The puppets are also used effectively to suggest other presences.

There is some tension between long stretches where little happens and moments when too much is happening – particularly when they are events that take place offstage and narrated to the audience.

Lianne Harris. Pic: Andy Catlin.

This is only natural – there are things in this story you just could not show. However, the way they are discussed does point up something odd here. It is possible that the play would be written differently now.

The events we all know are coming are not exactly skated over, but there is a definite sense that Korczak’s belief in self-determination for young people won out in the end, with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

it can only be told like this

With such ideals under attack, internationalism seeming toothless in the face of a burning world, and movements around the world openly declaring an affinity to Nazism in a way that would have seemed unthinkable twenty years ago, such faith in the perfectibility of human nature seems touchingly misplaced.

Or maybe it can only be told like this, especially when aimed at a younger audience. Dr Korczak’s example of being the best possible person under the worst of circumstances – given life so eloquently here – may just be the only possible one to follow.

Running time 1 hour 5 minutes (no interval)
Scottish Storytelling Centre(Venue 30);43-45 High St, EH1 1SR
Wednesday 21– Sunday 25August 2019
Daily at 12 noon
Tickets and details: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/dr-korczak-s-example

Website: www.strangetown.org.uk
Facebook: @strangetowntheatre
Instagram: @Strangetownco
Twitter: @infoStrangeTown

Fraser MacRae. Pic: Andy Catlin.


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