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Singing Swallows at Theatre Works

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by Mistress of Culture Vultures (subscribe)
I am a writer living in Melbourne who loves to devour culture and the arts. Visit me at www.pumptheatre.com.au
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The art of storytelling across generations through theatre
Take your family and see Singing Swallows on now at Theatre Works St Kilda until 4 July. Book your tickets here.

Romi Kupfer created Singing Swallows to make stories of Holocaust survivors accessible to children aged 9 to 18 years of age through an intimate theatrical experience.

Jewish, Holocaust, Survivor, stories, children, families, Singing Swallows, Romi Kupfer, Theatre Works, St Kilda, headphones, accessible, Goldenberg, Feldman, Maidenberg
Singing Swallows - photo by Pia Johnson


The audience is given individual headphones as they enter the theatre. The set design (Romi Kupfer) includes a large screen made of packing boxes - where descriptive captions are projected. The stage is bordered with a variety of packaging items found in the home today - boxes, bubble wrap, cereal boxes, postal tubes, and cardboard.

The set becomes the playground for the performers - Romi and child performers (Flora and Sol Feldman) using physical theatre to respond to the stories. Both actors wear headphones to hear the story narrations at the same time as the audience.

Jewish, Holocaust, Survivor, stories, children, families, Singing Swallows, Romi Kupfer, Theatre Works, St Kilda, headphones, accessible, Goldenberg, Feldman, Maidenberg
Children watching Singing Swallows - photo by Pia Johnson


There are four main stories narrated (Ellie Goldenberg, Noah Goldenberg, Jasmine Filer, Zac Maidenberg, and Raymond Kupfer) by survivors who were children at the time of the Holocaust in World War II set in Paris, Germany, and Poland.

The stories are based on interviews with Holocaust survivors and carefully curated to a simple form which children can understand, without traumatic details, but with enough references for an adult audience to understand and talk about more with their children.
References to 'Dachau' (concentration camp) 'Juif' the German word for 'Jew", The Bund' (youth movement) and 'The Ghetto' are kept providing some context.

On the night I attended, there was a Q&A session with Romi and Sol after the show with the audience. There is also a post-show panel about storytelling across generations on Sunday 27 June after the 2.00 pm performance, and matinees suitable for school groups, and night performances.

Jewish, Holocaust, Survivor, stories, children, families, Singing Swallows, Romi Kupfer, Theatre Works, St Kilda, headphones, accessible, Goldenberg, Feldman, Maidenberg
Romi Kupfer and her grandfather - photo by Pia Johnson


Some of the creations made by the actors in response to the stories are houses they lived in, improvised play and activities including ice skating, signs, and a radio set.

This is improvised physical theatre which means the performers can bring something new to the audience each night, based on their response to story. There is also a subtle reference to recycling through the display of household packaging in the show, which may be a metaphor for 'recycling stories' from history and connecting the stories and living standards from 1939-45 to contemporary society today.

Jewish, Holocaust, Survivor, stories, children, families, Singing Swallows, Romi Kupfer, Theatre Works, St Kilda, headphones, accessible, Goldenberg, Feldman, Maidenberg
Photo by Pia Johnson


A lot of time, research and care is evident in this performance, to provide a multi-sensory experience, with sensitive treatment of survivor stories, and space for the audience to bring their own stories and context to the work.

The use of digital technology to broadcast the story through headphones provides a unique and intimate theatrical experience. The sound is excellent, and each story is intertwined with music and soundscapes (Justin Gardam).

Jewish, Holocaust, Survivor, stories, children, families, Singing Swallows, Romi Kupfer, Theatre Works, St Kilda, headphones, accessible, Goldenberg, Feldman, Maidenberg
Romi Kupfer and her grandfather - photo by Pia Johnson


The final message in Singing Swallows is one of hope for future generations to understand and ensure stories are treasured, documented and told to safeguard peace in our world.

This is an interesting show, which is family-friendly, accessible to a broad audience, especially children, and tells real stories from our collective history.
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Why? Experience the stories of Holocaust child survivors through theatre
When: Sat 26 June 6:30pm, Sun 27 June 2:00pm, Tues 29 June 11:00am & 6:30pm, Wed 30 June 11:00am & 6:30pm, Thu 1 July 11:00am & 6:30pm, Fri 2 July 11:00am, Sat 3 July 11:00am & 6:30pm, Sun 4 July 11:00am
Phone: (03) 9534 3388
Where: Corner of, 14 Acland Street, St Leonards Ave, St Kilda VIC 3182
Cost: Adult $37.50, Concession $29.50, Child/Student $22.50
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