The lasting cultural impact of World War Two is truly remarkable. Even now, 81 years since war broke out new World War Two films still appear in theatres with surprising frequency, and stories from the era are continually being uncovered and translated to stage and screen. As a setting it serves as familiar terrain for the average viewer. The morality of the conflict is clear and simple. The forces of good are obviously the Allies, and the hordes of evil are clearly the Nazis and the Axis. Indeed, following the quagmire of later conflicts in the 20th century, American generals were known to longingly refer to the Second World War as the “good war.”
The War Compass aims to find a grey area in World War Two’s established moral dichotomy. At its heart the War Compass is a drama that aims to contemplate how the perception of morality can change in a time of total war.
Though at times sprinkled with clunky dialogue, and slightly burdened with a long run time, the War Compass succeeds in creating an earnest, compelling, and at times comedic drama that brings up intriguing questions about human morality.
The War Compass takes place in a newly free Prague at the end of WWII and follows the turmoil of a Jewish family in hiding since the Germans first invaded and reluctant to venture outside the safety of their home. Their fears are, of course, not unfounded. In the twilight of the Reich, a German writer/soldier is given a mysterious mission to find and kill them, all the while three unconventional cops trail him. It is through the experiences of these very different groups of people, and the circumstances which bring them together that the play delves into questions of human morality.
The play was a completely student written, directed, acted, and produced. Everyone involved was able to deliver an original story that excelled at building the pace and suspense till the plays thrilling climax (I won’t give spoilers). The set, while minimalist, was very well designed and mimicked the harsh realities faced by the plays characters. The costumes were equally well thought out.
The stellar acting is also definitely worth noting. The three women who played these unconventional, and at times comedic cops, as well as the actress playing the Jewish mother were all particularly talented.
The only real drawback this reviewer saw in The War Compass was the length of its runtime, which stood at nearly four hours long. Indeed, it’s a testament to the authors intellectual stamina to have had the persistence to produce such a hefty manuscript. While I may be just a victim of my generation’s technology induced ADHD, it is also worth remembering that Rose DeWitt Bukater and Jack Dawson created an undying love and experienced the sinking of the Titanic in three hours and fifteen minutes. In Braveheart, Mel Gibson was able to free the Scottish people in a record three hours and two minutes. Of course, that isn’t to distract from the fact that the story was masterfully written and succeeded in building the pace and suspense.
In conclusion, if the War Compass were to play again I would strongly recommend it. It is well written, thought provoking, and makes for an evening well spent. Just don’t forget to bring a snack.