Empty Hands Director Adam Stewart and his EISP pupils certainly haven’t chosen the fluffiest of subject matters to tackle. Empty Hands tells of the concentration camp Terezín, to which many thousands of children were committed, in the process, being separated from their families. But what could easily be a grey and despairing – possibly even patronizing hour of your life – transpires to be a surprisingly uplifting, imaginative, and humorous play. This is in no small part due to its drawing from a firsthand account (that of a 10 year-old girl imprisoned in 1941), strong performances all round, and not least, a bravely honest treatment of the topic. Although it was an undeniably evil place, Terezín was still seen by Jews as a “haven” compared to the likes of Auschwitz, with children being allowed access to education and recreation. It is these unexpected pleasures that Empty Hands is unafraid to depict: At one point, the stage switches to game show format in which children comically buzz in with wrong answers. Another scene has a concentration camp spiv dole out groceries, to the beaming smiles and thumbs-up of receivers. And though the multimedia performance (video, audio, even a bit of shadow puppetry) is fresh and enjoyable, Empty Hands never trivializes the Holocaust. While many children grew up far too quickly in the camp, some were never destined to become adults at all; this is reflected in an epilogue which has the actors state the career they could have had: It’s guaranteed to bring a lump to your throat. If all school productions were as good as Empty Hands, we’d be in danger of a world overrun with aspiring actors.
in the press
Review of Empty Hands at the Prague Fringe Festival. Directed and Written by Adam Stewart and performed by students from the English International School.
Will Noble, Prague Post, June 1st 2011