Haïm – In the Light of a Violin

Reviewer's Rating

Garutti’s play, Haïm – In the light of a violin, is a graceful portrayal of the endurance of the human spirit in a time of darkness. Inspired by the extraordinary life of Haïm Lipsky, this theatrical concert follows Haïm’s early devotion to music during his childhood in the Jewish-Polish village, Baluty, near Łodz, through the uncertainty and rising horror of the Jewish ghetto and Auschwitz. His story is interwoven with a compelling narrative, performed, in French, by Mélanie Doutey.

The cast is composed of classically trained pianist Dana Ciocarlie, violinist Yaïr Benaïm, and Les Mentsch, accordionist Alexis Kune and clarinetist Samuel Maquin, accompanied by the mellifluous voice of Mélanie. This quintet engagingly reveals the ways in which music informs our lives; in prayer, in celebration and in speech. The pieces which they play are at once familiar and strange. Music accompanies this narrative in joy and defiance. This play reflects upon the fragile quality of a silence from which music is born. This harmony is ruptured by the discordant notes of war and discrimination, and the advent of a new silence, the loss of the individual voice. The interplay of classical concertos, klezmer music and folk song is palpable. The music is occasionally brittle, lonely, and, finally, triumphant.

The Print Room is a powerful venue for this piece. The low stage offers the audience the intimacy of the orchestra pit, adding to the raw power of the music and the intimacy of the story. The fading glamour of the theatre itself reinforces the atmosphere of melancholy and nostalgia for the lost beauty and creativity of pre-war Europe.

The music draws the audience into a rhythm echoed in the melodic mixture of French and Yiddish. The lighting masterfully transforms a bare stage, seamlessly transitioning from the lively streets of the city into the cramped interior of a train bound for Auschwitz. The sensory immersion of the audience in this dramatic narrative brings this moving testimony to life. This play bears witness to the tenacity of hope and creativity and the delicate thread of music which overcomes adversity and connects us all together.