Nivelli’s War

By Charles Way

Nivelli’s War is a play about a young German evacuee at the end of World War 2. Ernst is six years old when he sent into the countryside to stay with his aunt Sophie. The war has affected aunt Sophie badly and one day she simply disappears, leaving the child to fend for himself. Ernst is saved by a mysterious thief, who has been stealing their food in order to survive. Together they travel across a war-torn landscape. En route Mr H, as Ernst calls him, reveals that he was once a magician and before the war owned a magic shop called Levin’s Magic Shop. Ernst is inspired to learn some tricks, little knowing that one day he will become a famous magician himself. After many adventures the pair finally reach Frankfurt and Ernst is reunited with his mother – but Mr H disappears.

The story is inspired by the real life Herbert Levin who survived Auschwitz by performing little magic tricks for the Nazi guards. In the thirties he wrote his name backwards to avoid persecution – to become Nivelli.

Cast Size

Minimum 6, 4m 2f

Production History

The play was first produced by Cahoots NI directed by Paul McEneany. Note – the play as first performed is different from the published text. The text as performed is available from the author.


This is world class work being produced right here in Belfast. Following its recent run at the Belfast Children’s Festival, the show is scheduled for a short tour of Ireland. But it is crying out to be seen in countries far from here, where the quality of production and the impact of content upon young imaginations can be recognised for their universal significance. Jayne Coyle, Irish Times.

Despite being for children, Nivelli’s War doesn’t hold back. The play is quite dark, visually it’s beautiful to look at. Looking around me one thing’s clear, the kids love it, and it’s definitely entertaining enough for adults to see on their own. Overall, Nivelli’s War is a very sophisticated piece of theatre, with the help of the complex characters, the use of shadows and the delicate piano music (scored by Garth McConaghie) between scenes, a magic, cinematic, almost dreamlike experience is created that everyone can enjoy. Laura Caldwell, Mums at the Mac.

Fabulous Stuff **** Belfast Telegraph.

Available from

The play is published by Aurora Metro Books in New plays for Young People. ISBN 978-1-906582-51-7

Age suitability

Suitable for children and family audiences.


All images and content © Charles Way 2018