Etty’s legacy of hope

Etty Hillesum
Etty Hillesum

On Remembrance Sunday be transported back to the tumultuous years of World War II through the thoughts and emotion of a young woman living in Amdsterdam.

Of Hope and Endurance is a production based on the astonishing diaries of Etty Hillesum, a Jewish woman in her mid-20s, and written during the German occupation. It comes to the Under Ground Theatre in Eastbourne on Sunday November 12 at 7pm. Tickets £8.

Etty was part of a circle of young free thinking academics, centred around the psychologist and chirologist Julius Spier, (a student of Carl Jung) with whom she ultimately fell in love. Despite the ever-worsening conditions to which the Jewish population are subjected, Etty refused to feel hatred towards her oppressors, but only compassion, and joy in the world around her.

A student of philosophy, religion and Russian literature, the spiritual beauty and insight of Etty’s writings belie her young age. One of her great ambitions was to be a published writer and bring comfort and hope through her work. This ambition has now been realised, but only posthumously. The diaries were not released until the 1980’s, 40 years after her death, to great critical acclaim.

This show, created by Mark Edwards, comprises spoken word, music and visual projections. Mark has worked as a professional pianist, arranger, composer and producer for over 30 years with a wide array of artists from Paul Weller, Daryl Hall, Chris Rea and Katie Melua, to Bruce Forsythe, Liane Carroll and Johnny Dankworth.

Some of the music has been composed specifically for the production, but the score also includes compositions by Arvo Part, Maria Shneider, John Lewis alongside traditional Jewish folk songs.

It is arranged for string quintet, piano, guitar and percussion.

The diaries are read by the actress Elaine Montgomery, now resident in Eastbourne, who has enjoyed a distinguished international career on the stage, most recently in her one woman shoe Madame Pompadour.

The visual projections were created by Joseph Edwards, a young filmmaker whose CV already includes the South Bank Centre, Covent Garden Royal Opera House and English National ballet, as well as having worked on several major feature films including the recent Marvel film Dr. Strange.

Mark said: “This event is about hope, gratitude, love and endurance in the most difficult circumstances, very relevant and apt for our time.

Etty was an incredible intellect, and beautiful person who only lived to the age of 27. The diaries received huge critical when they were first published in the 1980’s having been kept in the family until that time, but are worthy of a much wider audience.”