DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS – White Bear Theatre – 15 November
The story behind the making of the 1919 film called DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS (also the title of this play) is a fascinating one. It’s just a pity that it doesn’t fully come to life on stage. It’s also telling that some of the most potent moments of DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS are those on film.
In Claudio Macor’s 80-minute play, we are introduced to a number of historical characters. It doesn’t help that they are largely forgotten now, and that we have to have a number of introductions which eat into the available dramatic time. The linear plot follows Dr Magnus Hirschfeld, a “sexologist”, who is determined to make a film which positively expresses same-sex love. With money no object, he engages a director and then a cast, and the film is shot and exhibited, which causes an outcry; the film is withdrawn and eventually destroyed by the Nazis. Thankfully, somehow one copy survives in the Ukraine and in 2012 the film is rescued and eventually restored.
The best of the performances are from Simon Stallard as Kurt, the personification of pool-eyed innocence who is not afraid to engage with his deeper feelings. His later descent into hard-shelled Nazidom is merely a front – the boy still shines in those eyes.
Jeremy Booth as Dr Hirschfeld is earnest, driven, but at times over-expressive, however he delivers key speeches with commitment and sincerity.
Macor’s script allows little time for exploring the characters in depth, and therefore sadly it feels rather insubstantial. However, there are some very strong passages, especially the “Face in the Crowd” speech from Hirschfeld.
The stage show is undoubtedly sincere and earnest about its celebration of this iconic work and the circumstances surrounding its creation, and we should be grateful for it being brought to more public awareness. It just feels to me that it could have worked better as a documentary and not a stage show.
DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS ran at The White Bear Theatre from October 29th to November 16th
Note: For anyone interested in the actual film production, it can be found on YouTube here (with thanks to YouTube poster Cinema Lgbt)