over the wall productions CIC
in development summer/autumn 2021 – supported by Strode Theatre and Arts Council England
‘The Owl Man’ is a celebration of two Walters
Walter Strachan, an English public school master, published poet, francophile, and connoisseur of French book illustration (Le Livre d’Artiste), who, while working on behalf of the V&A, befriended many struggling artists in Paris following WW2.
Walter Spitzer, a Polish/Jewish artist, who survived the ghetto, Auschwitz, the Death March & Buchenwald, and went on to illustrate the works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Andre Malraux.
The play takes as its theme, Spitzer’s obsession with the schism between man’s extreme cruelty and innate humanity, and Strachan’s extraordinary and holistic approach to life and education (‘I don’t teach French’, he once told me, ‘I teach France’).
The story is told through the eyes of Strachan’s young student, whose imagination is sparked by a staircase hung with images of owls by artists all over the world. Each a ‘thank you’ to Strachan for his help in promoting their work. A gift from Strachan, a lithograph by Spitzer, connects the boy to the magic and colour of the circus, and the despair of the concentration camps.
The relationships the boy makes now, with his teacher, with art, with artists, and the values he learns, will inspire him for a lifetime.