Anything That Flies review – promising debut tackles sins of the past

Jermyn Street theatre, London
The quiet life of an elderly Jewish musician is disrupted by an aristocratic German woman in this exploration of guilt, reparation and rootlessness

What does it mean to be a rootless citizen of nowhere, forever haunted by the past? That is one of the questions raised by Judith Burnley’s debut play, which crams a good deal of European history into 80 minutes and which, even if it sometimes puts ideas before surface plausibility, is unafraid of big issues.

The setting is a north London flat in 1991. Its occupant is Otto, an elderly Jewish musician and former audio expert who lives in widowed solitude listening to Brahms piano quartets. His peace is shattered by the arrival of an aristocratic German woman, Lottie, who claims she has been sent by Otto’s Israel-based daughter to act as his carer and to help him recover from a stroke. Otto, understandably furious, sees Lottie as an unwanted intruder and dubs her “Little Nazi”, but over time we realise both characters are, in a sense, permanent exiles with more in common than they realise.

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