Driftwood – A story of the human spirit.

Driftwood the Musical, currently at the Eternity Playhouse, is a story of trials and survival that reminds us where we’ve come from and where we’ve got to go.

When Australia thinks about war atrocities, we often pay tribute to those who went and fought for our freedoms, but rarely do we remember those who fled to our country for safety. Driftwood recounts the over-50-year relationship of Slawa Horowitz and Karl Duldig, two artists who met at Art school in Vienna. As their love and art developed, so did the threat of Nazi invasion. Having to flee for their lives, first to Switzerland, then Singapore, they were then transported to the Tatura Internment Camp in Victoria, Australia.

Once in Australia, they rebuilt their lives and were able to reconnect with their surviving family back in Europe. While Driftwood does preserve the memory of those who suffered in WWII, it also celebrates the human spirit. Throughout the show, we find out how talented the Duldig family were, with Slawa inventing the folding umbrella, Karl designing a commemorative statue in Israel and their daughter Eva becoming a professional tennis player. The story gives us hope and preserves the memory of a family who survived against all odds.

Driftwood joins a suite of new Australian theatre focused on keeping Australian stories. Congratulations to the Umbrella Foundation for having the courage to invest in our country’s history.

Gary Abrahams (director) cleverly used every inch of the brilliant set designed by Jacob Battista. While it was a static set, the intricacies of the parts transported the audience from a flat in Vienna to a Parisian apartment and easily across to a boarding room in Australia. Also involved in writing the script, Gary Abrahams and Jane Bodie captured the era’s emotions. Anthony Barnhill, influenced heavily by the recitatives of the 19th Century, allowed the cast to progress the storyline. At times the lyrics and dialogue were a little disjointed, and this show could benefit from a dramaturg to smooth the rough edges.

With a recount spanning over 50 years, portraying the characters’ ages with such a small cast is difficult. Unlike larger ensembles, which can have multiple people play the ageing characters, this cast, through body language and movement around the stage, depicted early 20-year-olds to 70-year-olds. While some interesting casting choices made it hard to suspend belief, the stand-out performance was delivered by Michaela Burger as Rella, who snatched attention every time she was on the stage.

I sat in the audience beside a Jewish woman whose father survived WW2. Watching it through her eyes, it became clear that this story isn’t just here to educate and inform but rather to preserve the memory of the dark side of humanity in the hope that it will never be repeated.

– The other Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig is an international performer and has established himself as a trusted theatre specialist on the Sydney Arts Scene. While he understands the technical side of theatre, Dan writes for the everyday theatregoer (unlike some of those more prominent publications). When not in the audience, he loves to travel the world trying new gin. Follow him on all the socials @talldancraig

Driftwood the Musical runs for 2 hours 15 mins (including a 20-minute interval) and plays at The Eternity Playhouse through 18 June 2023. Tickets are available through Darlinghurst Theatre Company.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of AB Publicity.
Image credit: James Terry.