Review by Marian Webb. Images by Kerrie Pacholli
Night of Broken Glass (NOBG) – a collaboration by staff and students of the Australian Catholic University, Alkira Secondary School, members of the Choir of Hard Knocks and other able and disabled multifaith Victorians – was staged three times on Sunday 18 November 2018 in picturesque Cathedral Hall at the ACU Melbourne campus in Fitzroy: at 3pm, 6pm and 11pm. The late show was streamed live to St Lawrence Jewry Church in London. This sterling effort was the result of six weeks intensive rehearsal under the direction of Warren Wills and Dr Beth Rankin. It was an exercise in “socially inclusive theatre;” participants were not required to audition, only to bring their abundant enthusiasm to the project, which served to commemorate Kristallnacht, the notorious pogrom of the night of 9-10 November 1938, when the windows of Jewish businesses throughout Nazi Germany were smashed by paramilitary and civilians.
Welcome to Wurunjeri Country was performed by Shane Charles whose didgeridoo led an astounding musical ensemble under the musical direction of Warren Wills.
Songs, stories, dance and even drumming by a team from Alkira Secondary School filled out a 90-minute variety spectacle. Song lyrics by ACU students were projected to a big screen on stage, as was footage of Uncle Alf “Boydie” Turner, grandson of William Cooper the Yorta Yorta man who on 9 December 1938 presented a petition to the German Consulate in Melbourne protesting the Nazis treatment of Jews. The petition was not accepted then, but 79 years later Uncle Boydie presented a replica of the petition to the Consulate. The replica was accepted. Uncle Boydie was present in the audience at NOBG and gave a bow at the end, when extensive acknowledgements were made.
Other highlights included the story of the Tattooist of Auschwitz, a Slovakian Jew Lale Sokolov who was set to work by the Nazis and met his future wife in Auschwitz – as told by their son Gary Sokolov. Another remarkable story is that of Kurt Wildberg, who escaped internment because his father had won the Iron Cross for bravery in World War 1.
Of note also the story of Dorothy Thompson, a US reporter ejected from Germany over her reportage of events preceding Kristallnacht. Her story was performed by Monica Thomas, John Brown and Eliza De Luca to great effect.
Enthusiasm, variety and burgeoning talent were the ingredients that made Night of Broken Glass a worthwhile theatrical event. After three highly energetic performances in one day the cast and crew can congratulate themselves on a job well done. NOBG certainly was a night to remember.