On The Other Side Of The World

East meets west in Brenley Charkow's extraordinary tale of wartime struggle

Presented by Harley Dog Productions
Written & directed by Brenley Charkow

Photo by Dahlia Katz Photography.

There are many stories from WWII, but Brenley Charkow's On The Other Side of the World sheds light on a lesser-known piece of Jewish history—the story of a community that sought protection from Hitler in Shanghai, China (the only port open to them at that time). Now playing at the Next Stage Theatre Festival, the play follows Ursula (Ashleigh Hendry), the 11-year-old narrator, and her parents, Irene (Debra Hale) and Martin (Nicholas Rice), as they escape to an unknown land with an uncertain future.

Forced to adapt to filthy conditions, poverty and a culture very different from their own, the family forms a community with other refugees, including Jacob Schulman (Sam Rosenthal), Lily Schulman (Liza Balkan), Max (Dov Mickelson), Rosa Goldberg (Esther Thibault). Each finds a way to get by while trying to process the terrible "rumours" from back "home."

Ursula, in particular, is a sponge—soaking up new languages and religious beliefs with wide-eyed appreciation. It is the young narrator who forms the strongest bond with the city, striking deals with local merchants, teaching English to concubines, and befriending an Oxford educated Buddist monk (Dale Lim). She even falls in love in Shanghai—with her best friend Wolf (Jordan Kanner).

But the refugees find themselves trapped in the middle of another conflict—this time between China and Japan, a complicating factor that results in heartbreaking lessons for Ursula and her family.

After the war, on her way to America, Ursula is ultimately filled with gratitude for the place that sparred her from the atrocities committed in Europe. Growing up in Shanghai has changed her worldview forever, and she remembers it with love.

Featuring Bryce Kulak's live music, and exotic set and costumes by Scott Penner, On the Other Side of the World takes the audience on a moving journey into the heart of a young woman's harrowing experience. The 14-member cast does a fine job with Hendry at the helm, however the play itself could benefit from fewer scene changes and storylines, and more focus on developing key relationships.

On The Other Side of The World runs until January 19 at Factory Theatre Mainspace as part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival. Visit fringetoronto.com for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Wed, 2014-01-08 - Sun, 2014-01-19
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