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To mark the centenary of Arthur Miller’s birth, and the 70-year anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the Sheffield Crucible is staging the American playwright’s Playing For Time.

This stage version of Miller’s play is directed by Richard Beecham, who previously curated the National Commemorative Event for Holocaust Memorial Day at the Newcastle Theatre Royal.

Originally written for television, Playing For Time was based on the autobiographical memoir of holocaust survivor Fania Fenelon, and examines the strength of the human spirit and the enduring will to survive when faced with unimaginable horror.

Fania Fenelon, a Jewish cabaret star in Paris and French Resistance sympathiser, was arrested by Nazis in 1943 and deported to Auschwitz, and then on to Bergen-Belsen.

Along with the estimated 1,300,000 who were sent to the concentration camp her future looked short and bleak, her murder inevitable.

But an orchestra of women kept alive to perform grim marches for prisoners as they were herded in and out of the camp to work and to entertain their Nazi captors gave Fenelon hope.

Fenelon’s survival depended on becoming a member of the girl orchestra of Auschwitz which ultimately outlasted the camp.

When Auschwitz was liberated she weighed just 65lbs and had a potentially fatal case of typhus, but she had survived.

Miller’s Playing For Time is adapted from her memoir, Sursis pour l’Orchstre, the stage version places Sain Phillips in the lead role of this rarely staged tale which debuted on television in 1980.

Playing for Time is at Sheffield Crucible Theatre, 12 March – 4 April.

Richard Craig

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