The White Factory is the second play by Russian author and political exile, Dmitry Glukhovsky. The war theatre writer, novelist and journalist became a wanted man last year after he called for a halt to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, criticising the behaviour of Russian soldiers as well as Putin’s leadership. Despite a lengthy eight-year prison sentence hanging over his head, Glukhovsky’s heart wrenching play is currently showing at London’s Marylebone Theatre. So let’s find out more about the story behind The White Factory.
Insight Into the Atrocities of World War Two
Set in the Polish ghetto of Lodz Poland, Dmitry Glukhovsky’s play explores the terrible choices made by people under occupation. At its core is a real-life figure, Chaim Rumkowski, played by talented actor Adrian Schiller. Rumkowski was appointed the head of the Jewish Council of Elders at the Lodz Ghetto by Nazi Germany during the German occupation period. Despite a strong start, he suffered a dramatic and gut-wrenching demise. Total control over his tiny, desperate corner of society at a politically turbulent time corrupted him deeply and ruined the lives of countless families.
In the play, Adrian Schiller’s Rumkowski demands loyalty from men and favours from women in exchange for patronage, which can save people from deportation to the death camps. But he is left a broken and hated man following his infamous September 1942 speech in which he tells the community that he has no choice but to turn over every child under the age of ten to the Nazis in order to fulfil their latest victim quota. In one of the play’s most emotional scenes, Rumkoswki states, “I come to you like a bandit, to take what you treasure most.” It’s a story of human fallibility and the internal struggles and conflicts those under occupation faced.
Another character based on a real-life man is Nazi Wilhelm Koppe. He was the SS officer who industrialised mass murder in Poland, with his atrocities highlighted again in this play.
The fictional character of Yosef Kafman, played by Mark Quartley, also emphasises the fragility of morality during periods of war. As a hopeful and idealistic young lawyer, Kaufman begins the play fighting for his Jewish rights and beliefs and ends up rounding up other people’s children in an effort to save his own family. Like Rumkoswki, he’s not inherently evil, but war changes people and makes them do very out of character things. “You’re today and I’m tomorrow” is his excuse to the 48 families he robs of their little ones.
Post War Struggles
Spanning several decades, The White Factory explores the life of Yosef Kaufman who survives the Holocaust and moves from the ghettos of Lodz to 1960s Brooklyn in America. Battling guilt and depression, Yosef is forced to confront his own conscience as he struggles to rebuild a new life while plagued by his past. This would have been very commonplace post war.
Google ‘theatres near me’ and book your tickets to the limited run of The White Factory today. It’s a world-premiere and a production that’s sensitively made and emotional to the core.