This film is a recording of the Royal National Theatre production of the play Primo, also directed by Wilson. Adapted by Antony Sher from If This Is a Man (1947) by Primo Levi, it is a monologue told as a memoir by an older Primo looking back at his life in Auschwitz.
Set designer Hildegard Bechtler devised a symbolist set consisting of a single bare wall and a lone chair with variations in lighting.
Wilson and Sher travelled to Auschwitz whilst researching the play. Sher was confined in the back of a lorry and German actors were hired to shout out orders to him in order to give him some feel of the powerlessness and confusion Levi experienced during his incarceration. Sher said that he found the play terribly draining; he refused to extend the play or to tour with it.
A further film of the RNT stage production was made by director Robin Lough.
- Primo, Dir: Richard Wilson, HBO/BBC/Rainmark Films, 2005 IMDb.com https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1006938
- http://www.bafta.org/awards/television/nominations/?year=2007 BAFTA, Television Nominations 2007, Primo, Broadcaster: BBC Four, Actor, Antony Sher
- http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/?lid=9858&dspl=reviews nationaltheatre.org.uk, NT : What's On : Productions : Primo, Reviews, "Primo, Guardian, Michael Billington, 1 October 2004, Paul Pyant's rectangular pools of light indicate place, and Jonathan Goldstein's music quietly punctuates the story, or evokes the marches that accompanied work squads."
- Daily Telegraph, Charles Spencer, 1 October 2004, "At the end of this remarkable performance there was a silence unlike any other I have experienced in a theatre. Antony Sher's performance, directed by Richard Wilson on a stark, spare design by Hildegard Bechtler, and occasionally tellingly punctuated by a solo cello, is as controlled, as precise, and as free of hysteria, as Primo Levi's own lucid prose. He (Antony Sher) captures Levi's unsparing depiction of his fellow inmates, forced to prey on each other in order to survive. As a result, the moments of kindness and generosity the author witnessed at Auschwitz shine with a tentative, almost unbearable beauty."
- http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/4456/primo The Stage, Listings and Reviews, Primo, Published Monday 4 October 2004 at 11:50 by Peter Hepple, "It is best not too look on Antony Sher’s adaptation of Primo Levi’s If This Is a Man as a plain piece of theatre. It is far too powerful and affecting for that, this description of a period - mercifully quite short - of imprisonment in Auschwitz."
- http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/4456/primo The Stage, Listings and Reviews, Primo, Published Monday 4 October 2004 at 11:50 by Peter Hepple, "A major part of the success of this - one can only call it a recital rather than a play - is due to the director Richard Wilson, with the help of the designer Hildegard Bechtler, the lighting designer Paul Pyant and the composer of the stark and spare cello score, Jonathan Goldstein."
- https://www.theguardian.com/music/2008/apr/21/popandrock.awardsandprizes The Guardian, Music, 21 April 2008, Pop and Rock, Full list of nominees for the Ivor Novello awards 2008, "Best television soundtrack, Broadcast: Oliver Twist, Composer: Martin Phipps, UK Publisher/s: BDi Music Limited. Broadcast: Primo, Composer: Jonathan Goldstein, UK Publisher/s: Bucks Music Group."
- https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1006938 Primo, Dir: Robin Lough, Heritage Theatre/Kultur International Films/Kultur Video, 2005, IMDb.com