HIRSCH : Pleasance Forth: Venue 33

Hirsch, created by Alon Nashman and Paul Thompson, is a one man play. Alon Nashman is the actor. It’s the story of John Hirsch who was orphaned by the holocaust aged 13 and arrived in Canada with no English. It’s a tribute from Nashman who encountered him directing Maggie Smith and then worked for him for a season when fresh from college.

The play starts at the end of Hirsch’s life, he died from an Aids related illness aged 59, and then moves back to the Hungary of his birth in the 1930s. He sang and danced for his mother’s guests. He went off to school and lived with his grandmother – Nashman dons a lace shawl to signify female old age. The world as he knew it was blown apart by anti-semitism and the second world war, but he survived and made his straggling way to Paris. Once there he queued for entry to several countries and arrived in Winnipeg.

The production is enlivened by the witty use of a Mother Courage type wagon. Props go in and out of it. Large expanses of material cover and uncover. Nashman’s glasses go on – and off. Throughout, the actor takes us into rehearsals with Hirsch. How did he attack Mother Courage, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet? What did Nashman, fresh from drama college learn from working with the great man? And there was Brian, the love of Hirsch’s life.

Hirsch has a cv of some length that more or less equates with the creation of Canadian theatre and television drama. Nashman teases out the complexities of his character which led to as much, or more, drama in the back office than there ever was in front of the audience. A great man lingers among us and one felt his ghost watching over the company.

Catch it if you can 14.15 (75mins) till Aug 25.

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