Taro at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
Paris, 1935. With Nazism taking Central Europe by storm, Germany is no longer the safe haven it once was, especially for its Jewish community who, following the birth of Hitler’s totalitarian regime, finds itself engulfed by malice and hate. Gerta Pohorylle (Cornelia Baumann and Lucy Ioannou), the feisty redhead from Stuttgart who abandons oppression in favour of liberation, is one of its victims. Taro is her story.
Ross McGregor’s spellbinding biopic is visceral, delectable, and true. A feminist manifesto in its own right, it chronicles Gerta’s journey as she defies patriarchal norms by opting for an ambitious career, before tragically losing her life on the frontline near El Escorial, Madrid, making her the first female war photojournalist to have been killed in action. Cleverly crafted together, the plot commences with the ghost of Gerta – now Gerda – meeting her idol, Greta Garbo (Beatrice Vincent), in the future, to whom she recounts her story, from her iconic relationship with the doe-eyed Hungarian refugee, Endre Freidmann (Tom Hartill), to their collective rise to prominence during the Spanish Civil War; intercuts of family life in Stuttgart supply contextual pointers along the course of the narrative.
With virtually no items on its props list, other than a wheelie table and a bench that provide the backdrop for a myriad of scenes, including a Parisian bar, an altar on which a coffin is laid, and a military vehicle used by Gerda and her comrades whilst on duty in and around the Iberian Peninsula, the piece remains electrifying in its delivery. This is largely attributable to its powerful soundtrack, a blend of rare archive recordings featuring gunshots and soldiers in combat, and its cast’s outstanding performances, particularly those of Baumann and Ioannou, whose interpretations of Gerda past and present are interwoven in perfect harmony and synchronicity. Beautifully choreographed by movement director Matthew Parker, Taro joins physical theatre legends Gecko and Frantic Assembly in its ability to thrill and engage its audience. Packed with sentimentality and warmth, Gerda Taro’s legacy is one to be remembered for generations to come.
Photo: Davor Tovarlaza @The Ocular Creative
Taro is at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre from 19th January until 16th February 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.