Behind the Wire
KRISTEN - Mother to Greta and Maria
FRIEDRICH - Husband to Kristen. Father of Greta and Maria.
GRETA - youngest daughter
MARIA - oldest daughter
MARGOT - a Jewish girl
KLARA - friend of Kristen
MARTHA - friend of Kristen
The casting is suitable for exam purposes with Greta doubling with Klara and Maria doubling with Martha. The roles of Klara and Martha are not sufficiently long for exam purposes.
For a smaller number of players, it is possible for Kristen to double with Margot.
The cast numbers are thus 3F and 1M, or 4F, 1M.
The running time is about 30 minutes.
Since this play is about a labour camp, it might be useful to set the scene by showing some archive pictures. The most suitable would be those that show people behind a wire fence.
If doing this play for A level, you could create some ensemble scenes at the beginning [and elsewhere], using the whole cast. For suggestions, see the Notes accompanying this play.
Sample Pages from the script
The family home of Friedrich, who is in command of a concentration camp.
Kristen is sitting at a table writing letters. Another part of the stage, possibly a little raised up on a platform, represents Friedrich's office. He is writing diligently throughout this first sequence.
It is quiet. After a few moments, Greta runs in, obviously excited.
GRETA Mummy, I've seen some children. Lots of children. And there's this girl with dark hair, who ...
KRISTEN Hush, Greta. Your father is in the study and you mustn't disturb him. You know how important his work is.
GRETA But I like her, Mummy. She's my friend.
KRISTEN absently That's lovely, darling. Run outside and play, there's a good girl.
GRETA I'm going to find my new friend and ask her to play on my swing.
She runs out as Maria enters.
MARIA Greta, be careful! You nearly knocked me over!
GRETA from off-stage Sorry!
MARIA That girl is quite wild, Mother. She runs round the compound like a little savage and everyone just smiles and lets her do exactly as she wants!
KRISTEN She is full of imagination and fun. Let her have her pleasure while she is still young, Maria. Youth does not last for long.
MARIA She is old enough to learn discipline, Mother. Father has been teaching me about discipline; he has told me how to be an asset to my family. He's teaching me many things. [Proudly.] He says I would be a worthy son if ...
KRISTEN You are a worthy daughter, Maria. Never forget that.
MARIA But Father so wanted ...
KRISTEN A son, I know. But we do not always get what we want, Maria. You are his daughter and nothing can change that. Your father loves you and Greta, both of you, equally. He has no regrets and is proud of his daughters. [Reaches out to embrace Maria.] We both are.
They freeze as the telephone rings on Friedrich's desk and he answers it.
FRIEDRICH Commandant speaking. Yes ... Quite convenient. I will take the call. [He appears to tidy himself up and sits up straight.] Herr F ührer. This is a great honour. I .. Of course ... That is so. ... Of course, Herr F ührer. It shall be done. [He replaces the telephone, frowning. After a few seconds, he picks up the phone again.] Hello. Get me 73271. [A pause.] Kurt. It is Friedrich. The F ührer has called me and the meeting goes ahead in eighteen days. [A pause.] Yes, it is indeed. And Kurt, if Paul would like to accompany me, I would be delighted ... Please do. [Smiles.] Good afternoon, Paul. And how is my favourite nephew? [Smiles.] My only nephew. Yes. And how would you like to accompany me to the capital? [Listens.] There is every likelihood that you will meet Herr Hitler, who has done me the honour of making a personal call. Yes, it is indeed a great privilege. [Listens.] That is settled. You shall accompany me, Paul. I will make all the necessary arrangements with your father. Goodbye.
He replaces the receiver, then stands and calls. As he does so, Maria leaves the stage. Kristen enters the study.
Excerpt 2. From a flashback.
Klara and Martha run in laughing and Klara pins a flower into Kristen's hair.
KLARA Who is it, Kristen? Who sent the flower? We're your best friends, Kristen, so it's clearly your duty to tell us.
KRISTEN No one. [A pause while they wait expectantly.] It's none of your business. I'm busy.
MARTHA Busy? [Looks at Klara.] She's too busy for us, Klara.
KLARA Oh dear. Funny, she doesn't look terribly busy. Do you think there's something she isn't telling us?
MARTHA There must be ...
KRISTEN Look! I know you two will never be satisfied until you know who sent me the flower. I'll tell you everything tomorrow - I promise on my life - but I don't have time now. I have to - to meet somebody.
MARTHA to Klara She has to meet somebody. [To Kristen.] It must be someone we know. We know everybody in this town.
KRISTEN He isn't from this town. His father works with my father and we met when their family came to dinner, if you must know. Now, if you two would just leave me to ...
KLARA Mm. Somebody we don't know. A friend of father's. Sounds interesting. And judging by her impatience it has to be somebody rather more than a family friend. Don't you agree?
She and Martha exchange looks as Friedrich enters.
KLARA her voice lowered And it looks like the important family friend just walked in.
Excerpt 3. Still from a flashback
Kristen enters wearing a bridal veil as the time changes again. She stands alone in the centre of the stage and the wedding march begins to play. Friedrich joins her and so do Klara and Martha, wearing wreaths of flowers on their heads. They all pose for a photograph and there is a flash. The three girls remain frozen as Friedrich steps forward and addresses the audience as if they are wedding guests.
FRIEDRICH And finally, I would like to thank all of you for joining us on this happy occasion, helping to make it so special for both of us. But before we begin the feast I have a further announcement to make. This is news which even my wife does not yet know. I have saved the surprise for our wedding day. I hope you will all share in our happiness at our good fortune. I have obtained a position in the government and Kristen and I will shortly be moving to Berlin so that I can take up the post. We leave in two weeks time. Herr Hitler has given me a junior position in his advisory team. It is a great honour.
Kristin looks visibly shocked. Klara and Martha take the veil from Kristen and the flowers from their own hair and walk forward as Friedrich returns to Kristen and they engage in a mimed conversation which shows that he is trying to convince her they will be happy.
MARTHA And that was it. As soon as the honeymoon was over they moved away - many miles - to Berlin. We were sad because we'd lost our friend and we were not sure that she wanted to leave behind everything which was important to her, and everyone she knew.
KLARA And when we went to see her ...
The scene changes. Friedrich hangs back while Kristen comes forward and embraces her friends, who look around, clearly impressed by where she lives.
KLARA Oh Kristen, it's such a lovely house!
MARTHA So big! And the ceilings are so high.
KLARA So many rooms!
KRISTEN shyly Well - we shall be needing another room very soon. A nursery.
Greta and Margot face each other with the wire between them. The barrier is imagined, but their hands are held out, almost touching.
GRETA What is your name?
MARGOT Margot. [Looking behind her.] But we mustn't speak so loud. The guard will hear us.
GRETA I don't care about the guards. Father tells them what to do and they do it straightaway. Sometimes he shouts at them and they are frightened.
MARGOT Your father? It must be wonderful to be with your father every day. My father was taken away before we arrived here. All the men went in one direction and all the women stayed together. Father called out that he would come back to find us. I don't know where Father is now, but Mother says he'll keep his promise and that we will surely meet again before too long. What is your name?
MARGOT You are free. You shouldn't come here. You'll get into trouble. And I'll be in trouble too.
GRETA No I won't. And you won't. I'll tell Father and he'll tell them to leave me alone. Everybody has to do as Father tells them.
MARGOT Then you're lucky, Greta.