Friday, October 18, 2013

The TenTen Theatre... really excellent. In a packed  theatre at Leicester Square we were taken to Poland in the 1940s and the drama of Maximillian Kolbe.  The full poignancy of this haunting story of courage and extraordinary heroism is brought out fully in Kolbe's Gift,  a most powerful bit of theatre. We are made to ponder the fullness of the thing: Kolbe stepped forward at Auschwitz when prisoners were being picked out to suffer the horror and torture of death by thirst in an underground starvation bunker.  When one such prisoner blurted out "My wife! My children!" Kolbe offered himself to go in his place, saying calmly to the supervising officer: "I am a Catholic priest", and explaining that he had no family and was prepared to go forward. 

What is especially poignant in the story is that the man whose life Kolbe saved went on to live in a very ordinary way, and not without sorrow. His two sons, having survived the Warsaw Uprising and other wartime horrors were both killed by random fire of the Russians in the last days of the fighting. He  worked as a minor town hall official in the drab and difficult years of post-war Communism, suffering as did all other Catholic Poles from all the petty restrictions and practical hardships and miseries of those years...there was no dramatic reason, humanly speaking, why his life should have been saved.

And that, the drama seems to be saying, is all part of the importance of Kolbe's gift. It was a pure gift, an act of pure generosity. The man whose life he saved didn't have to "earn" the honour by going on to do something hugely significant. The message is about love, and about the law of giving, of being some one for others...Kolbe's gift, not only in his final heroism but by many acts of heroic kindness in Auschwitz where he shared his bread and gave hope and faith to men in desperate misery, is a gift we have to ponder and ask ourselves about...

TenTen has done some powerful work in schools, exploring in drama - really superb drama - issues concerning crime, killing, hatred, sacrifice, and truth.  They also work in prisons.The plays - like Kolbe's Gift - are not comfortable or cosy in their message, but powerful and important.  If you get the chance to see one of their plays, don't miss it. If you are working with young people, connect to the website and get information.

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