Making the most of a bad millennium;Edinburgh Festival;Arts

13th August 1999 at 01:00
Perhaps it is do with the Millennium approaching - a chance to look back as well as forward, and to consider some of the most traumatic events which have shaped the consciousness of late 20th century Europe.

And in a period which has seen the term "ethnic cleansing" invade home and classroom as shorthand for human barbarity, it is probably not suprising that some half-dozen productions on this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe have chosen to focus in different ways on the best known manifestation of such barbarism to date, the Holocaust.

One of these productions is Klimt - Reminiscences of a German Sinto. It will be performed in repertory along with On Business by Theatre Fahrenheit, from Saxony, at the Netherbow Arts Centre (August 9-28). Funded by the German government, Klimt is based on actual memories, and both pieces of musical theatre trace the history of the German gypsies, the Sinti. "Any teacher undertaking Holocaust studies must take into account the experiences of all those who suffered, Jews, gypsies, gays, politicals as well as the others deemed 'subhuman'," says Netherbow's director, Donald Smith.

"We have to recognise the gypsy experience as something with which Europe needs to come to terms at the close of the century," he says, "recalling the original post-war purpose of the Edinburgh International Festival, which was to promote peace and reconciliation in Europe through cultural exploration and exchange."

Dead Earnest Theatre's production Kaddish looks at the fate of 437,000 Hungarian Jews transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in May and June 1944. The play hopes to "celebrate and mourn the loss of a culture developed over many centuries and destroyed in a few years", according to its artistic director, Ashley Barnes. "Theirs is the voice that tells the true story of the last century," he adds. "The focus of the production is on championing the heritage and culture which was destroyed by the Nazis." Under the slogan "`Never again' must mean 'never again'!", Kaddish will play the Hill Street Theatre from August 9 to 31.

The Badac Theatre Company will be performing at the same venue (August 7-30) with Ashes to Ashes, also set in Auschwitz, which explores friendships forged there, providing "insight into the mechanics of genocide".

Search Through the Ashes (Randolph Studios, August 4-30), by Prime Productions, is based on the diaries of Auschwitz prisoners buried in the ash pits of the crematoria. The production contrasts them dramatically with diaries kept by their captors.

An outdoor production likely to set the Fringe ablaze is Carmen Funebre. Performed at the Fringe a few years ago, it returns on August 13 to the University's Old Quad to raise money for Amnesty International's work with Kosovan refugees. A searing evocation of ethnic cleansing, it is not to be missed, as is War!, in the grounds of St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral (August 13-15) by Teatro Margen, from Asturias, Spain.

Raymond Ross

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