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We were honoured to collaborate with The Photographers' Gallery in presenting readings from Drowned or Saved? as well as Levi’s own writing as part of the commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day 2019. The free event was packed and we presented the readings in an incredible exhibition of Roman Vishniac’s photographs. After the event, we were overwhelmed with inquiries about when the play would be on again. 

Marco Gambino and Geoffrey Williams at P
PRODUCTION: 6 - 24 November 2018

Tristan Bates Theatre

I'm overjoyed that after years of writing, workshops, feedback and trial performances, Drowned Or Saved? has had a fully realised production! 

September 2018 was all about casting, preparing the rehearsal draft and beginning the marketing campaign. We had early production meetings and finalised set ideas. 

October was rehearsal, the most exciting of times. Every time I return to the play, there are new discoveries and a flurry or rewrites. 

November was the run, and I will write in detail about it soon ...

About The Play

Drowned or Saved? explores the final years of the Holocaust Survivor Primo Levi. The play imagines that Primo conjures the prophet Elijah as part of a story he is trying to write and the prophet simply does not leave. Primo creates Elijah as the embodiment of hope, however he finds the prophet to be more cantankerous and oppositional than expected. Nonetheless, Elijah is a cathartic conversant, who attempts to guide Primo through his memories and help him to put down the burden of bearing witness. At first Primo is resistant to this Virgil / Dante relationship, but he is quickly swept away in the tide of a new perspective on his life’s work. While the question of Levi’s suicide has to be part of telling his story, the play is not an autopsy. Drowned or Saved? celebrates Primo’s famous qualities of vitality and resilience. Peppered with cheeky Yiddish humour, the play is a miniature portrait of one of the Twentieth Century’s greatest thinkers.


Drowned or Saved? is urgent because Primo’s message of humanity, compassion and perseverance offers a level-headed alternative to the wild anxiety that underpins life in the 21st Century. But there is another reason for the play’s immediacy; the voices of living survivors are disappearing. We owe them the respect of preserving and cherishing their testimony. It is not enough to read their words. We must participate in the conversation about what happened. Drowned or Saved? is my voice in the discussion, offering audiences the opportunity to actively engage with Primo’s testimony.


We cannot forget. We must not forget. Yet remembering requires effort, and it is made more manageable if we can relate to individual stories. It is difficult to conceptualize six million people dying. It is too big for the brain to hold, too tragic for the soul to bear. But maybe we can manage one person’s story. If we learn about one person, we can begin to feel the weight of all the other stories that were snuffed out before they had a chance to be heard.

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