IOTF 2023: The Book of Sirens

Directed by Alex Borovenskiy, Performed by Anabell Ramirez, ProEnglish Theatre (2022), Ukraine.

A performance staged in the bomb shelter/theatre of Kyiv during March 2022, this is the story of the little German town of Molching being constantly bombed during World War II.

Based on The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, as well as the books of Hector Abad Faciolince and sn extract of his The Oblivion We Shall Be.

With a running time of around 35 minutes, this performance finds a synergy between 1940s small town Getmany and 2020s Ukraine. A wartime fear and uncertainty. An anger at the disruption of a mundane daily way of life.

In her room, Ramirez’s character listens, thinks, and shares the uncertainty of a nation oppressed and battered. The initial euphoria of media assures victory against the bleak reality.

The Book Thief, in its novel and film form, takes the story of young Liesl to highlight the victims of war. A story of humanity and survival, in which Death is the main narrator.

Production shot for The Book of Sirens

Here, in this production, director Borovenskiy chooses to utilise Soviet broadcasts and propaganda to assure parallels with the current occupation and conflict.

There are also visual flourishes that intrigue, split screens, film from above, disconcerting angles. All add to the general feeling of unease, yet there is still a sliver of a smile on Ramirez’s face.

Using the writings of Abad, a Columbian novelist and journalist, and specifically his memoir of family loss by military action, gives The Book of Sirens an additional frisson.

The decision to include music also anchors this as a personal tale of engagement and emotional reaction, with a period perfect recording of “Moonlight Serenade” but also, pidno pieces.

With strong production values in both picture and sound and an assured performance from Ramirez, which highlights the boredom, fear, and inertia of conflict, The Book of Sirens remains powerful and realistic throughout.

Available for free during the International Online Theatre Festival (IOTF), to 30 April, along with over 30 other shows. To find out more, visit the festival website.


Image credit: Gorka Sanz