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Theatre / Imagine This

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Our people pushed to such extremes
Depend on us to shape their dreams.
So if we can imagine,
Maybe they will imagine
All is not the way it seems.
Imagine this.

Imagine This is a 2007 musical written by Glen Berenbeim, with music by Shuki Levy and lyrics by David Goldsmith. After a successful tryout at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth, it opened in the West End in November 2008 where it lasted for just over one month before closing. The show has since garnered a small cult following thanks to having been filmed before it closed, and is one of the more blatant displays of Critical Dissonance of 21st century musical theatre in the UK, with audiences seeming to embrace it while critics generally took issue with it, complaining especially about whether it trivialised the Holocaust, and its closure has since been blamed more on the recession which was just setting in than on any failure on the part of the musical itself.

The show is set in the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw in 1942, just before the first train is due to depart for Treblinka (an extermination camp). Actor/playwright/director Daniel Warshowski, along with his family and theatre company, attempt to lift the spirits of their audience while also sheltering the Jewish resistance fighter Adam. Daniel has written a play about the Jewish rebellion against the Romans at the fortress of Masada, coupled with a love story between Caesar's most trusted general Silva (played by Adam), and the Jewish rebel leader's daughter Tamar (played by Daniel's daughter Rebecca). Art begins to mirror life for the company as they learn the truth of what awaits them if they take the train to Treblinka and are offered the choice between safe passage to Zurich or warning their audience.

This show provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Captain Blick shows signs of this to Rebecca.
  • Asshole Victim: Lola. "Asshole" is a bit strong but she informs the Nazis of Adam's identity in exchange for a fur coat while everyone else was willing to risk their lives to keep it secret.... In Masada, Rufus.
  • Back for the Finale: All the Jews who have been taken or killed by the Nazis, including Daniel's wife and Jacob who were both taken near the start of the show, reappear at the end, dressed in the clothes they wore before the Nazis invaded.
  • Big Bad: The Nazis in general. Captain Blick more specifically. In Masada, it's Caesar.
  • Black Comedy: It's pretty much the only type of humour you can get from this kind of setting, but Daniel and Izzy/Pompey in particular excel at it.
  • Book Ends: The show starts with everyone happy, well-dressed and enjoying "the last day of summer". It ends with them the same way (minus Rebecca and Adam) in a happier place after they've all been executed.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Daniel is having to deal with various mundane complaints from his company about the venue being too cold, costumes having to be made from tablecloths, and actors not being satisfied with the roles they've been given. Izzy then decides to remind them that "they're all stars here", pointing out the Judaism symbol on the armbands they're all forced to wear.
  • Break the Cutie: All of the Jews, both in Warsaw and Masada, go through this. Especially Rebecca/Tamar.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Of a type. The actors never directly interact with the audience, but during the Masada segments the audience is treated as though they are Jewish inhabitants watching in the ghetto.
  • Broken Pedestal: A variation. Rebecca starts off clearly seeing her father as this as she thinks he simply refuses to acknowledge the reality of their situation. Throughout the show, the pedestal gets rebuilt as she realises that it's just his own method of resistance to the point where she's almost suicidal after he's executed.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Lola's fur coat, as well as two literal examples. Adam rushes into the rehearsal with a gun which Daniel takes and hides inside a piano, which is used by Jacob to attempt to defend Rebecca from Blick. Blick also continuously uses his own gun to threaten various members of Daniel's company. He is about to shoot Rebecca with it when he and Adam get into a fight and Rebecca uses it to kill him.
  • Children Are Innocent: Leon/David. And the rest of the company try their hardest to keep it that way. Adam tries to call them out on it but it doesn't do much good.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Adam sees Daniel as this at first. He grows to respect him though.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Izzy/Pompey often seems to do this deliberately. A prominent example is just after the company has been given the choice between continuing the show and attempting to warn the audience about Treblinka:
    Max: I can't go out there and act!
    Izzy: So what else is new..?
  • Crapsack World: It's 1942, after all.
  • Dark Reprise: "To Touch A Cloud" is first sung to reassure Leon after Adam lets them know what will happen if they get on the train. It's later sung by David to his company as they're herded off to be killed.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Of a kind. Adam makes repeated references to the sky at Treblinka being filled with ashes. It doesn't take long for the company to understand what he's saying.
  • Distant Duet: Tamar and Silva get a couple in Masada.
  • Downer Ending: Daniel and the entire theatre company (except for Adam and Rebecca) are executed, the entire Warsaw ghetto will end up on the trains despite the warnings, and there's three more years of this to go before the Holocaust and WWII is over.... In Masada, the Jewish rebels (including Tamar) commit mass murder/suicide, condemning themselves (since both are taboo in Jewish law), and Silva is implied to be close behind them.
  • Driven to Suicide: The Jewish rebels in Masada, with the implication of Silva following them. This potentially also applies to Daniel and his company, since it's clear that the Nazis will kill them for disobeying, but it's purposefully left ambiguous whether it's this or merely deciding to stand for something greater than yourself, even if that means dying.
  • End of an Age: "The Last Day Of Summer" is all about the last shred of happiness anyone had before the Nazis arrived.
  • Face Death with Dignity: The logic behind the ending of Masada. Also, when the company is executed, they all accept it as calmly as they can. Notably, the two arguably least sympathetic characters who are killed - Lola and Blick - completely avert this.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Captain Blick. He's verbally polite - to Daniel and Rebecca, at least - and offers the company safe passage to long as they don't tell the other Jews the truth about the camps, and he has no problems inflicting violence if he doesn't get what he wants.
  • Femme Fatale: In Masada, Salome sings about how this is the only lifestyle available to her thanks to her mother's poor choice of name for her.
  • Foregone Conclusion: History tells us exactly how successful the company's attempts at warning the Jews of Warsaw not to board the trains will be...but then it also tells us how the Nazis wider ambitions will fail as well.
  • Foreshadowing: When talking about Masada to Captain Blick, Daniel describes it as "lots of singing, lots of dancing, and all the Jews die in the end".
  • Happy Place: In "To Touch A Cloud", Daniel tells Leon about a fairground with a carousel in the sky, telling him that that's what they'll find when they get to the camp.
  • He Knows Too Much: Zigzagged. Adam tells Blick he knows the truth about Treblinka and has told the rest of the company, but although Blick threatens to shoot him, he instead merely tells Daniel to finish the play. However, it's heavily implied that this is one of the main factors in the company's mass execution at the end.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The entire company with regards to Lola - they shun her first simply for owning a fur coat which presumably makes it easier for her to justify selling out Adam to get the coat back.
  • Hope Spot: Two occur in Masada: the first when Silva orders a stay of execution for Aaron which is broken when the next scene is Rufus going ahead with the crucifixion anyway, and the second when Silva and the rebel leader Eleazar meet and negotiate peace which is broken when Rufus and his soldiers ambush the meeting.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Blick to Rebecca, especially at the end.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Daniel is the only one who refuses to ever let the bleakness of his reality get the better of him.
  • Karmic Death: Blick orders Rebecca's family and friends killed and is about to brutally murder Adam when Rebecca shoots and kills him with his own gun.
  • La RĂ©sistance: Adam is a member of the resistance within the ghetto, though he's the only one we ever see.
  • Love at First Sight: Silva and Tamar in Masada. Played with in regards to Adam and Rebecca - she's the only one who agrees with him (and vice versa) that plays and imagination are a waste of time when their lives and futures are so bleak, he repeatedly attempts to defend her from Blick and she comforts him when he discovers that his brother is dead, but it's still ambiguous whether the relationship is or will be a romantic one.
  • Mood Whiplash: In the very first scene. We go from everyone happy and smiling to the Nazis invading Poland in the space of a few seconds.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: The reprise of "To Touch A Cloud". It's interrupted by gunshots as the company are gunned down. A more mild example occurs early on when Adam rushes in on a rehearsal, interrupting Rebecca and Jacob's love song.
  • Necessarily Evil: Blick shows hints that he sees himself and the Nazis in general as this.
    Blick: (admiring a cane) When I was a boy, only bankers had such fine canes. The Germans would go hungry, the bankers would go to the synagogues.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Averted. Daniel doesn't want the sole responsibility of sending anyone to their deaths so he tells anyone who thinks they should warn the audience not to board the train to get up at the end of Masada, with the assurance that if even one person refuses, they won't say anything. In the end, they all choose to stand. Played straight in Masada when Silva decides to follow Caesar's orders despite having fallen in love with Tamar and made peace with her father Eleazar, and Eleazar decides that the only way for the Jews to be free is to die despite having made peace with Silva.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Blick delivers one of these to Adam.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: An interesting example: although they all agree with Daniel early on that imagining and acting are methods of resistance as much as actively fighting, most of the company seem reluctant to agree with Daniel and Adam that they have a responsibility to warn the audience about the camp and are instead seemingly happy to take Blick's offer of safe passage to Zurich in exchange for completing the play without interruption. Eventually, however, this trope ends up thoroughly averted.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Daniel eventually persuades Adam that this applies to them: both are resisting in their own way.
  • Oh, Crap!: Adam's reaction when he hears the train whistle. Also regularly the audience's reaction (for anyone who hadn't already figured it out) when, in a moment of Leaning on the Fourth Wall, Blick comes out just before the interval to tell the audience that they'll be leaving the ghetto the next morning on a train to a camp...
  • Only Sane Man: To a certain extent, Adam since as a resistance fighter, he's the only one fully informed about the true nature of the camp Blick's planning to send them all to.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Masada is, in effect, Daniel's version of this to the Nazis.
  • Sadist: Blick. The Nazis in general are only varying degrees of this.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Adam and Lola both repeatedly try this. Both are unsuccessful though Adam survives his attempts.
  • Small, Secluded World: Set within the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw with very little reference to the outside world.
  • Team Mom: Sarah/Naomi.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Adam only very reluctantly agrees to help with Masada. It gradually becomes genuine.
  • Title Drop: In song form, near the beginning and right at the end.
  • What Is One Man's Life In Comparison?: Essentially what both the show itself and Masada come down to.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Again, this is essentially what the show comes down to. Daniel tells the company that anyone who wants to warn the audience should stand up at the end of Masada and if even one person remains not standing, none of them will do anything with the implicit assurance that no one will be explicitly judged for their choice. All of them choose to stand.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Several of the company, most noticeably Leon. Daniel gives the impression of being this though as his song in the second act reveals, it's mostly just a facade.
  • Would Hurt a Child: As the Nazis invade Poland, one is shown taking a baby away from a Jewish couple. 10 year old Leon is also pushed around a lot by the Nazi soldiers and is killed at the end. In Masada, the entire plot is kicked off by Rufus wanting to execute Tamar's young cousin David.