Perhaps there is never a better time to turn our attention to the atrocity of the Holocaust. As Vladimir Putin feigns innocence and the war in Ukraine continues beyond 20 months, it is a sombre reality to look back at the previous failings of humankind. 

The White Factory is the story of Josef Kaufman, played by Mark Quartley; his wife Rivka Kaufman, played by Pearl Chanda; their father Ezekiel played by Adrian Schiller; and their children played by Leo Franky and Paul-Hector Antoine. As the Nazi regime rises to power, on September 8th 1939, the Germans occupied Lodz and this family were one of thousands to be subject to horrifying ghetto conditions to provide resources for Nazi forces. Quartley expertly reminds us of the desperation within the ghetto as Josef Kaufman is thrown around a series of impossible situations to keep his family alive resorting to joining the Polish police force and committing unspeakable crimes to protect his own family. 

Dmitry Glukhovsky’s debut play, The White Factory, unveils one of the first ghettos to be established in the Nazi regime. Lodz, in Poland, was the second largest ghetto and over 74,000 jews had been transported to Auschwitz by Liberation Day between January 1942 and January 1945. There is no colourful way to paint this picture, but it is an essential story to be repeated, to retain in living memory, the stories of many ancestors who suffered the inexplicable. Maxim Didenko’s direction undoubtedly gives the piece the respect and nuance it deserves. 

Chanda’s portrayal as Rivka is harrowing. The suffering is beyond apprehension as Chanda unwillingly commits to the greed of man with a wavering lip trying to hide the helplessness of the situation. The children Franky and Antoine do a superb job in expressing the imagination of children within the ghetto, re-enacting the stories told by their grandfather of the golem who might come to save the day. 

Adrian Schiller’s multi-rolling is almost seamless as he conjures the man in charge of the ghetto Chaim Rumkowski, a façade of control, from the caring grandfather of Old Ezekiel. Schiller’s vocal performance is a tour-de-force, the direct address to the audience as he announces the next group to be carted off to the Auschwitz death camp offers a paralyzing capsule of what the Lodz residents would have suffered. 

Didenko has captured the morbidity of history using live projections (from a slightly modern film camera) which give an intimacy of filmic quality highlighting the quality of the performance from the likes of Chanda and Quartley. In particular, the close-up camera footage highlights Quartley’s attention to detail as we see an incremental loss of control and submission to the greatest evil that was the Holocaust. 

The White Factory is anything but a laugh-a-minute showstopper, but it is a necessity to respect the past by keeping it alive in memory.


It runs until 4 November.


Review: Sebastian Calver              Photo: Mark Senior