Sunday, 14 April 2019

Changing History? in Shakespeare Now!

Changing History? in  Shakespeare Now! by Goldie Alexander (Five Senses Education) Anthology Edition RRP $34.95  ISBN 9781760322601

Reviewed by Claire Stuckey

In 2017 Taylor travels to Berlin with her grandfather Opa to visit the city that family fled in the 1920's. Her future is currently unclear with her dancing a focus but is she good enough for it to be a career? She escapes an overbearing mother, and a boyfriend she wants to dump but only to fall into a desperate and dangerous situation.

Waking up in 1928, Taylor has a bad concussion and no money, but she is helped by a young man called Rom. Despite the hardship of his own Jewish family, he aids Taylor's recovery, then assists in finding her a job and a place to stay. Taylor has never worked so hard, shared so little food, money or comfort. She makes friends and enemies while struggling to work at night eventually dancing with Juliet on stage to pay her way. Her friendship with Rom and Juliet educates her on the influences of religion and class in a society also struggling with political and cultural change in a dynamic economic environment. Their situation is difficult; both are restrained by family pressures, both are caring, but very much in love.

Taylor shares her time-travel secret with the couple who respond with much interest. Her revelations on the rise of the Nazi party and the consequences becomes a catalyst for a plan to poison Hitler on a visit to the restaurant where they work. The plan is foiled by an informer, Taylor does not escape the wrath of party officials. Saved once again, she lives rough on the streets until she returns to the present day, in hospital, with a terrible head injury. Taylor returns home with significant changes to her views on her life, family and her future. Opa finds a photo of his parents and Taylor realises that the family history is entwined with her own Berlin journey.

Although I knew much of the history surrounding this story, I enjoyed travelling with Taylor into this period. Unlike the original play, the young couple survive.  As an historical story it provides a good entry point into German socialism and the religious intolerance in the pre-war period.  

It may make Shakespeare more readable for students, but this story diverts markedly from the tragedy of the young lovers in the original. Highly readable, I did not try to look for the comparisons like I have in others stories in this series but enjoyed the time-travel adventure with well-drawn characters arranged in an dynamic setting.  

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