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Mar 10th

Summer Season at the Battersea Arts Centre

By Carolin Kopplin

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This summer Theatre Ad Infinitum, Forced Entertainment and Little Bulb Theatre return to the Battersea Arts Centre. The BAC has commissioned Scratch performances for their Courtyard space to create a new programme for open-air theatre. Furthermore, the BAC is hosting Edinburgh previews.                    

THEATRE HIGHLIGHTS

Light | Theatre Ad Infinitum | 31 May – 17 June

Style-switching mavens Theatre Ad Infinitum bring back their wordless Orwellian thriller, Light, following two sold-out runs in 2016. A nightmarish tale of love, betrayal and technological power, Light is a sci-fi thriller accompanied by a pulsating soundtrack and lit solely by LED strip and torchlight.

Dirty Work (The Late Shift) | Forced Entertainment | 27 June – 1 July
Ibsen Award-winners Forced Entertainment return to their London home to reinvent Dirty Work, a performance first created nearly two decades ago. The UK premiere of Dirty Work (The Late Shift) draws the audience into imaginary performances dreamt up by two figures on a stage. With an imaginary cast of thousands, no event is too large and no image unstageable for this extraordinary performance.

Extravaganza Macabre | Little Bulb Theatre | 4 – 29 July

Having delighted audiences under summer skies last summer, Little Bulb Theatre return for four weeks in July to Battersea Arts Centre’s unique 75m2 Courtyard theatre and activity space. This mischievous musical melodrama follows two passionate lovers separated by a freak storm, their fate in the clutches of a scheming villain set on keeping them apart forever. Lashings of drink and picnic fayre complete the festive experience.


MORE HIGHLIGHTS
London Stories: Made by Migrants film screening | Date TBC during Refugee Week (19 – 25 June)

Battersea Arts Centre is adding to its portfolio of digital projects, including BBC Arts and Arts Council England partnerships Live From Television Centre and the ongoing Performance Live strand, with a film released for Refugee Week.  Capturing a range of personal stories told by people who moved to London from elsewhere in the UK or from overseas, the film made by Fettis Films documents the acclaimed London Stories: Made by Migrant festival held in November 2016. These film screenings are raising money for Universal Language, a project developed as part of The Agency that combines football and learning for young people with English as a second language. Tickets go on sale 1 April.

 

Edinburgh Comedy Previews | 10 – 22 July 
Battersea Arts Centre is revving up for another riotous summer of big name comics and bright new talents as the Edinburgh Comedy Previewsgive London audiences a sneak peek of what’s to come on this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Sara Pascoe, John Kearns and Nish Kumar air fresh material alongside stars of tomorrow’s comedy circuit. 

Further information: www.bac.org.uk

Mar 9th

You're Human Like the Rest of Them

By Carolin Kopplin

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Wife (Sarah Berger) in Not Counting the Savages

Sometimes I feel like a spectator of my own life - outside. 

In a production commissioned by the Finborough Theatre, You’re Human Like the Rest of Them, an evening of three short plays by the experimental novelist, poet, playwright and film producer B. S. Johnson, are staged together for the first time. 

Spanning ten years of Johnson’s short yet prolific career, the production features revivals of Johnson’s short plays You’re Human Like the Rest of Them and Down Red Lane, and the world stage premiere of Not Counting the Savages, all dating back to the early 1970s. This is a rare opportunity to see the work of this undeservedly forgotten author and one of the most irreverent and subversive writers in post-war Britain.  

Not Counting the Savages was originally produced as a teleplay directed by Mike Newell and starring Brenda Bruce as part of the BBC’s Thirty Minute Theatre season in 1972. A middle-aged lady (Sarah Berger) returns traumatised from visiting her son's grave after an encounter with a flasher. She expects her family to support her but her husband (Brian Deacon) couldn't be more indifferent: "You've seen one before". Instead he begins to talk about his experiences in the Soviet Union - where he has never been. Daughter Rosa (Emma Paetz) shows a little sympathy but accuses her mother of overreacting and instead uses the opportunity to criticize her father's despicable behaviour. Son Jerry (Bertie Taylor-Smith) wants to hear all the sordid details of the story as he might need them for his soft porn films. This is all very amusing until the victim of this outrage screams: "I want him hanged!"which silences her offspring but leaves her husband untroubled as he continues eating his dinner.     

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Diner (Reginald Edwards) and Belly (Alex Griffin-Griffiths)

Down Red Lane was Johnson’s final work written before his untimely death at the age of 40. Possibly an inspiration for an episode of Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life", this gastrodrama features an enormously obese man - the Diner (Reginal Edwards) - who barely makes it to his table in a posh restaurant to indulge in another luxurious meal. The Waiter (Bertie Taylor-Smith) knows what his patron desires and showers him with expensive wines, oysters and venison with juniper berries whilst the Diner's long suffering Belly (Alex Griffin-Griffiths) flinches with every bite his master takes. Finally Belly stirs up the other fed up organs and starts a revolt. A very funny and absurd play about a man who is "digging his grave with his teeth".

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Emma Paetz and Reginald Edwards

You’re Human Like the Rest of Them was Johnson's first play, originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1964 and later turned into an experimental short film by Johnson himself.

A young supply teacher named Haakon (Bertie Taylor-Smith) is sent to hospital with a back complaint and finds himself being lectured in back care by the therapist (Sarah Berger) alongside a group of octogenerians. Haakon wants to know why the spine was not designed for bending down but the therapist has no answer. Upset, Haakon returns to his own classroom and asks his pupils to explain the meaning of life as his own beliefs have been irreversibly shattered.

Carla Kingham's direction is fast-paced and exact. There are only short interruptions between the plays to move the few props. The stage design by Rüta Irbite consists of a few geometrical shapes scattered across the stage with the set pieces of the main production in the background. 

The cast find the correct balance to make their characters believable in this highly absurd and stylised play. Sarah Berger is touching as the lonely wife, Alex Griffin-Griffiths and Reginald Edwards are hilarious as the Belly and its gluttonous owner. Bertie Taylor-Smith convinces as the smug son and the perfect waiter who seems to move on rails as he swiftly caters to the Diner's every whim.

A rare opportunity to see some of B. S. Johnson's sadly neglected plays.

Until 21st March 2017

Finborough Theatre

118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED

Telephone 020 7244 7439

Running time: 70 minutes without an interval

The run will be accompanied by the FINBOROUGHFORUM, a series of informal post-show discussions and debates, on Monday evenings: 13 and 20 March. All events are free to ticketholders for that evening's performance of the play. FINBOROUGHFORUM events will all be Twitter friendly with live tweets from @FinboroughForum. Using the hashtag #finfor, the speakers will also answer questions posed on Twitter so everyone can be included, no matter where they are in the world. Speakers will be announced shortly. 

Images by Matthew Foster.

Mar 4th

I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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David (Adrian Lukis) and his daughter Ella (Jill Winternitz)

 If I don't make it, will you still love me?

Being the child of a star is hard, especially if you decide to follow in your parent's footsteps. Ella's father David is a Pulitzer prize winning playwright. Ella is an aspiring actor and tonight could be the start of a promising career.

The play begins as father and daughter are waiting for the notices of Ella's Off-Broadway production of The Seagull. Ella did not get the highly coveted role of Nina but had to be satisfied with Masha, which David finds rather irksome, blaming the obvious incompetence of the director for his idiotic casting decision. The fact that the director rejected David's latest play might add somewhat to his judgement. Drinking wine and smoking pot in his cosy West Side apartment, David shares his vast theatre experience with his daughter, indulging in a bit of critic bashing and warning her against playing it safe as an actor just to please the critics: "Be transgressive, be bewildering, be anything but safe!"

The childlike Ella, who verges on the edge of hysteria, idolises her father, hanging on his every word and encouraging him to repeat anecdotes from his life that she has probably heard many times before. David expects his daughter's love and adoration. Despite David's bravura, one wrong word or the slightest criticism can set him off to show his innate cruelty. When Ella mentions that David did not actuallly win an Oscar, only an Oscar nomination, his revenge is absolute, leaving Ella in tears.

David is proud of going his own way after being thrown out by his father for neglecting his school work. On his road to fame, David had no time for losers or any kind of weakness. People who disappointed or slighted him in any way were eradicated from his life, including his father whose letters remained unanswered until the day he died. Ella is afraid that she might lose her father's love if she does not live up to his expectations. 

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Ella (Jill Winternitz) and David (Adrian Lukis)

Halley Feiffer's disturbing two-hander about the destructive relationship between a famous playwright and his daughter, is hard to watch. Jill Winternitz as Ella desperately tries to please her father in any possible way, clinging to him as if he was a life buoy saving her from drowning. She listens to his monologues with exaggerated attention, eager to delve into his cornupia of wisdom. Yet after their inevitable altercation, Ella follows her father's advice and - maybe inevitably - becomes just like him. Adrian Lukis portrays David as a harsh and unforgiving man who launches bilious and homophobic attacks on those he despises, expecting his daughter to approve of everything he says and to always, always agree with him. Any little hint of criticism leads to a vicious counterattack. He wants Ella to follow his example - and in the end she does, in every way.

Adrian Lukis and Jill Winternitz are outstanding in Jake Smith's hard-hitting production.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 25th March 2017

Finborough Theatre

Running time: 90 minutes with no interval

Images by Scott Rylander.

Feb 28th

La Strada at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Gelsomina (Audrey Brisson) and Zampanò (Stuart Goodwin)

Zampanò - he's here!

Before I had even seen the film, my mother kept talking about it as one of the true masterpieces of European cinema. She was fortunate enough to see Federico Fellini's La Strada in the cinema when it was released in 1954, with Anthony Quinn as the great Zampanò and Fellini's wife Giulietta Masina as his gentle assistant Gelsomina.

Bringing La Strada to the stage is no mean feat but director Sally Cookson and her ensemble succeeded, supported by Mike Akers as Writer in the Room. Instead of using a finished adaptation of the screenplay, they used improvisation as well as the film and the original script to create something new whilst keeping the essence and the spirit of Fellini's work.

La Strada (The Road) tells the story of the naïve and slightly awkward Gelsomina (Audrey Brisson) who is sold to the travelling street performer Zampanò (Stuart Goodwin) to replace her late sister Rosa. Gelsomina is reluctant to go. She prefers spending her time alone at the sea, listening to the sound of the waves, but her mother has many mouths to feed and Gelsomina is expected to help support her family. Zampanò, a strongman whose act consists of breaking a chain around his chest, is not too pleased with an assistant who cannot even cook or sew but Gelsomina is smart enough to announce his act and then pass a hat around. The crude Zampanò beats Gelsomina and often leaves her alone at night, visiting bars and picking up women. Still Gelsomina remains loyal. When joining a small-time circus, they meet Il Matto (The Fool), played by Bart Soroczynski, a clown who also performs daredevil stunts on a tight-rope. Obviously Zampanò and Il Matto have a past and they are not the best of friends. Despite Zampanò's violent tendencies, Il Matto cannot stop taunting his rival - with tragic consequences.   

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 Il Matto (Bart Soroczynski) and ensemble

The stage design by Katie Sykes consists of a grey backdrop with chains and ropes hanging from the ceiling. Two telegraph poles rise up from the stage, indicating the continuous travel of the protagonists on the country roads and allowing Gelsomina and other cast members to climb them, thereby adding another level to the performance.

The international ensemble, composed of actor-musicians, is permanently onstage, often acting like a Greek chorus, introducing the performance as narrators and watching the story unfold, creating props such as Zampanò's motorcycle with a few wheels and movements, performing as a band in a bar, or representing a wedding party. The chorus often speaks Italian which provides a closeness to the Italian source text. Benji Bower's beautiful original score adds to the Italian setting and the narrative. Sally Cookson's production achieves a surreal quality matching the original film.

Audrey Brisson is an outstanding Gelsomina. A dreamer, at first awkward and socially shy, she gains enough confidence to demand her fair share of Zampanò's earnings. She is touching in her innocence and admirable in her loyalty and brings a Chaplinesque touch to her performance whilst using her soft voice to sing Benji Bower's melancholy melodies. Stuart Goodwin convinces as the brutish Zampanò, spending his money as soon as he earns it, giving little thought to what tomorrow will bring. He is a rough character but there Goodwin shows that there is more to him than expected. Bart Soroczynski's Il Matto is a world-weary clown who is kind to Gelsomina but cannot stop antagonising Zampanò. Maybe taunting the strongman provides the same kind of thrill as walking on a tight-rope. Soroczynski is a skilled acrobat who shows some astonishing feats during his performance.

A beautiful and highly theatrical production with an outstanding ensemble. 

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 4th March 2017 at the Richmond Theatre

Tickets: http://uktheatrenet.ambassadortickets.com/whatson.aspx

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes including one interval

Tour dates: http://www.lastradalive.com/

Photographs by Robert Day.

Feb 25th

Orbits at the Drayton Arms Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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  Do you have inner bravery or inner cowardice?

During the Nazi regime, many German artists and writers fled to America, among them Bertolt Brecht. He collaborated with Charles Laughton on his play Life of Galileo to get his big break on Broadway and Laughton felt that working with Brecht would add some extra spice to his stagnant career. Wally Sewell's play focuses on this collaboration and the clash of two big egos. 

The performance begins with Charles Laughton (Edmund Dehn) rehearsing a scene as Galileo who is being questioned by the Inquisitor, played by Bertolt Brecht (Peter Saracen). Galileo attempts to navigate his way out of an accusation of heresy whilst the Inquisitor quietly listens and observes. When Galileo is finished, the Inquisitor is not satisfied. Neither is Bertolt Brecht.

The power structure of the play within a play somewhat reflects the relationship between the two men, both of whom have something to hide - Brecht his communist ideas, Laughton his homosexuality. Whereas Laughton is in awe of Bertolt Brecht, calling him a writer as great as Shakespeare, Brecht dismisses Laughton's work, especially his appearances on the radio, sponsored by Lux Soap. He expects Laughton to be pure as an artist, not selling out and giving in to commercialism. Laughton takes Brecht's slights with good humour. As their collaboration continues, the power balance shifts - Brecht is summoned by HUAC because of his communist leanings, which suddenly puts him out of favour and turns him into a persona non grata. 

Although Sewell bases his play on real events, the portrayal of the characters and the dialogue is fictitious. The Brecht character does not resemble Brecht any more than Peter Shaffer's Mozart resembles the real Mozart. Sewell draws Brecht as an arrogant and rude artiste who feels superior to Laughton and despises the superficial life in California and the commercialism of the U. S. Because of his unbearable arrogance and complete lack of any positive qualities, the sympathies of the audience are entirely with Charles Laughton, who also had a gigantic ego but is portrayed as a reasonable man expecting at least some appreciation for his work from the man whom he admires so much.

I first saw this production in April 2015 at the White Bear Theatre with the same cast and director. It remains an intriguing play because it discusses important issues but it would be more exciting and convincing if the characters were equally weighted. Edmund Dehn is very good as Charles Laughton, playing his character with quiet authority and a gentle sense of humour. Peter Saracen does his best with the rather unappealing Bertolt Brecht character.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 11th March 2017

Drayton Arms Theatre

Please read my original review here: http://www.uktheatre.net/magazine/read/orbits-at-the-white-bear-theatre_2730.html

Feb 21st

Blue Elephant Theatre 2017 Spring Season

By Carolin Kopplin

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The Blue Elephant announces a new season of collaborations with exciting emerging artists, bringing urgent, thought-provoking and intriguing work to the black-box fringe venue in Camberwell. 

The Blue Elephant continues to support work at all stages of development and the season includes scratch nights and work-in-progress showings as well as Haste Theatre’s Oyster Boy and Resuscitate’s Rounds. Both these shows have had successful past productions but are now premiering ‘revamped’ and further developed versions at the Blue Elephant in March. 

Other highlights include When the Dove Returns, by recent East 15 graduates Backpack Theatre, and Female Intuition, two nights of new writing written and directed by women. 

The season closes with a new production of Twelfth Night by Original Impact Theatre, reimaging the play for new audiences. 

As well as its professional artistic programme, the Blue Elephant has a vibrant and far-reaching participation department, which delivers workshops in local primary and secondary schools and runs two youth theatres in the local area, reaching up to two thousand people each year. 

Venue: Blue Elephant Theatre, 59a Bethwin Rd, Camberwell, SE5 0XT (entrance on Thompson Ave)

Nearest tube: Oval (Northern Line)

Wheelchair accessible

Box Office: 020 7701 0100

www.blueelephanttheatre.co.uk

info@blueelephanttheatre.co.uk

Twitter: @BETCamberwell

Feb 19th

Summer Nights in Space at the Vault Festival

By Carolin Kopplin

Everything is better in space.

The VAULT Festival is now in its fifth year. Until 5 March, hundreds of new shows are presented in the Waterloo Vaults. Summer Nights in Space is a musical comedy about the search for love across the universe by Hannah Elsey Productions, the same company that created the hilarious The Quentin Dentin Show.

Ever since Captain John Spartan (Matthew Jacobs) was a little boy, growing up in a bio dome and living on soylent green, he dreamt of going boldly where no man has gone before. After finishing space school, he was given command of the Excelsior. After his third year in space, a dull computer as his only company, John is getting increasingly scared of catching space madness. 

But then he detects a distress call in his spam folder and, despite the warnings of his computer, calculates a trajectory to the perishing astronaut. On his way to the damsel in distress, John finds a dangerous alien (Candice Palladino) on board. To make matters worse his arch nemesis and space rival "Lethal Space Bizzle" (Benjamin Victor) appears, rapping across the bridge.

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Candice Palladino, Matthew Jacobs Morgan and Benjamin Victor

Henry Carpenter's musical is a spoof on popular science fiction, with references to Star Trek, Alien, Soylent Green, Dark Star, Moon and many other famous films. Accompanied by the Spacebugs - Henry Carpenter (musical director), Mickey Howard (guitar), and Archie Wolfman (drums) -, clad in white coveralls, with insect antennae and futuristic glasses, the three actors are singing their hearts out, sometimes in vain as the band can be overpowering. The songs are not very memorable but "Lady in Space" entails all the longing Captain Spartan feels for the unknown astronaut with the sexy Russian accent.

Sinead O'Callaghan's production is entertaining and includes some good twists. It benefits from a talented cast: Matthew Jacobs Morgan gives a highly energetic performance as Captain John Spartan, Candice Palladino is delightful as the space alien, moving in a predatory crouch, smiling threateningly, accompanied by the occasional hiss. Benjamin Victor has the most thankless role as the aggravating Lethal Space Bizzle. His appearance is too short to make much of an impact, yet he is very good as the voice of the computer.

The stage design by Lars Davidson entails a spacey floor with grid pattern, two walls in glittery white and a few gadgets, including a silvery truck that delivers Spartan's food among many other items. A monitor dating back to the 1980s with green fonts represents the computer - basic but sufficient.

An entertaining show.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 19th February 2017

Vault Festival

Running time: 80 minutes

Photographs provided by Chris Hislop.

Feb 18th

Richard III by Schaubühne Berlin at the Barbican Centre

By Carolin Kopplin

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Lars Eidinger as Richard III

I myself find in myself no pity to myself.

After a successful and critically acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Festival last summer, Thomas Ostermeier brings his intriguing Schaubühne production to London, with Lars Eidinger in the title role.

Using a translation by Marius von Mayenburg, one of the most important contemporary dramatists in Germany, Shakespeare's verse is replaced by prose and the play has been cut down to a running time of two and a half compelling hours without an interval, which seems taxing but is doable as there is not one dull moment in the show.

Thomas Ostermeier's production begins with thunderous drumming by Thomas Witte and a cacophony of noises before we find ourselves at a swell party. The Yorks are celebrating their victory in frat party style, covering the stage with glitter and giving in to any possible vice imaginable. Only Richard finds himself excluded from the festivities. An outsider because of his disfigurement, he has been pushed to the sidelines for far too long. Richard decides to get what he deserves by using deceit and murder. The glitter remains on the stage, stomped into a mix of clay and blood as Richard murders his way to the throne.

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Lars Eidinger (Richard III) and Jenny König (Lady Anne)

Commanding centre stage from the beginning, Lars Eidinger provides Shakespeare's antihero with sexual magnetism and a boyish charm, displaying a set of braces whenever he smiles. He is rapper and stand-up comedian, using a microphone to share his most intimate thoughts with his audience. Using his fake humility to deceive his opponents, Richard makes his lies appear like the truth. When wooing Lady Anne, Richard strips down, offering himself for the kill. Yet instead of piercing his heart, Lady Anne gives Richard a passionate kiss. Richard's seduction has worked and he despises Anne for being such an easy prey. Lars Eidinger's Richard is a monstrous but highly seductive performer. He fondles the microphone like a rock star, aware of his power over his audience.

One could say that one flaw of this production is that it centres too much on Lars Eidinger, thereby sidelining the other characters, which leaves him short of serious opponents. Margaret, played by Robert Beyer in drag, is comical. Her curse has been cut and she does not appear as a threat in any way. Jenny König, who gave a splendid performance in Ophelia's Zimmer at the Royal Court, is very good as Lady Anne but her character and Elizabeth (Eva Meckbach) are mere victims, doomed to passivity. Buckingham (Moritz Gottwald) is smeared with a brown paste by Richard, who then exclaims that Buckingham "looks like shit", getting many laughs from the audience. Yet in the end Richard destroys himself by taking his course of action, haunted by his victims and ending up alone in a rather surprising twist.

Thomas Ostermeier's production benefits greatly from Jan Pappelheim's stage design, depicting a bare stage, covered with clay, that seems to be in decay, rotting away with the mayhem caused by the protagonist, and Erich Schneider's atmospheric lighting design. Sébastien Dupouey provides video projections reflecting the unsettling events on the stage. 

An impressive and challenging production.

By Carolin Kopplin  

Until 18th February 2017

Barbican Centre

Running time: 2 hours 30 mins/no interval

Age guidance 14+ (contains nudity and violence)

Performed in German with English surtitles

Weekend Lab

All photographs provided by the Barbican Centre.

Feb 12th

Crime and Punishment at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

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 Sonia (Christina Baston), Raskolnikov (Christopher Tester), Porfiry (Stephen MacNeice)

Mankind won't improve itself and there is nothing I can do about it.

Arrows & Traps have done it again! After their compelling production of Anna Karenina, the company returns to the Jack Studio Theatre with yet another Russian classic - Fyodor Dostoevsky's first great novel Crime and Punishment, adapted by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus.

Raskolnikov, a former law student, murders an old pawnbroker and her sister to prove a theory. In the aftermath of his heinous crime, Raskolnikov battles with his conscience, going through a variety of emotions, from justification to guilt, from despair to empowerment. He is eventually forced to face his guilt by the contact with two characters — the deeply religious Sonia, whose life has been one long path of suffering, and the clear-sighted Porfiry, who is charged with investigating the murder. 

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 Raskolnikov (Christopher Tester)

The brilliant adaptation by Campbell and Columbus does not attempt to bring a detailed account of the novel to the stage. Instead it distills the essence of Dostoevsky's novel and focuses on the major themes. The play is a psychological thriller that takes us into the mind of a murderer. Everything revolves around Raskolnikov as he relives his memories and the thoughts that drove him to the crime.

Whilst being interrogated by Porfiry, Raskolnikov argues his theory that extraordinary people have an inner right to overstep certain boundaries and to dispose of people who hinder their grand plans, using Napoleon Bonaparte as an example. He refuses to be tricked by Porfiry into a confession, telling the inspector that he - as a superior being - can see through his indulgent act. However, Porfiry is convinced that Raskolnikov will confess in the end as a murderer is "like a moth circling a flame".

As Raskolnikov relives his memories, he reveals his feelings for Sonia who is willing to do anything to keep her family afloat, whilst being tormented by her ailing stepmother and left to her own device by her useless drunkard of a father. Still Sonia remains compassionate and pious whilst Raskolnikov embraces a nihilistic world view. Sonia realises Raskolnikov's isolation and loneliness when she tells him:" There is no one in the world as unhappy as you."

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Sonia (Christina Baston)

Ross McGregor's intense and imaginative production does justice to Dostoevsky's masterpiece. Christopher Tester is outstanding as the tormented Raskolnikov as he goes through myriad emotions, sometimes speaking directly to the audience. Christina Baston portrays Sonia as vulnerable and strong at the same time. Baston also plays all the other female characters in the play, including the murdered pawnbroker Alyona, her gentle sister Lizaveta, and Raskolnikov's long-suffering mother. Stephen MacNeice convinces as the soft-spoken inspector Porfiry as well as Sonia's drunken father Marmeladov. Both actors manage even rapid transitions between their various characters smoothly and with great skill.

Set in the time of the novel, the actors are wearing authentic period costumes, designed by Ross McGregor. The simple set by Luke Ridge consists of a few chairs, a table and a sofa. Quotes and keywords from the novel are written across two columns framing the wall that also includes a window, drawn with white chalk. Gareth Kearns' soundtrack adds to the unsettling atmosphere of the play.  

 An impressive adaptation of a classic that should not be missed.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 25th February 2017

Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

Running time: 90 minutes, no interval

Photographs by: Davor Tovarlaza @ The Ocular Creative

Feb 12th

Beware of Pity by Complicite & Schaubühne Berlin at the Barbican

By Carolin Kopplin

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Laurenz Laufenberg and Christoph Gawenda

Once more my pity had been stronger than my will.

The novel Beware of Pity (Ungeduld des Herzens) by Stefan Zweig was published in the eve of World War II and takes place in 1914, shortly before the beginning of World War I. Simon McBurney directs the Berliner Schaubühne ensemble in a compelling production that raises questions of consciousness and compassion as the Austro-Hungarian empire disintegrates.

The performance begins at night in a museum. Two uniforms are on display: the first is covered with blood as it was worn by Archduke Franz Ferdinand when he was assassinated in Sarajevo in June 1914. The other uniform is squeaky clean, the uniform of an officer of the Hapsburg cavalry. This uniform belongs to Anton Hofmiller, a young career officer who slides into a terrible situation shortly before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the beginning of the Great War, an ill-fated love story with a rich and disabled young woman. As a now middle-aged Hofmiller remembers his younger self, the production takes us to a different time.

Young cavalry officer Anton Hofmiller (Laurenz Laufenberg) is stationed in a small garrison town near the Hungarian border. He is invited to a soirée held by Baron Kekesfalva (Robert Beyer) at his castle and enjoys the delicious food, select wines and the delightful company. Before leaving, Hofmiller feels obliged to ask Edith (Marie Burchard), the daughter of his host, for a dance. His request is met with shock and disbelief as Edith is disabled. Deeply embarrassed by his faux pas, Hofmiller flees from the castle. To atone for his behaviour, Hofmiller sends flowers to Edith and apologises, Edith responds with an invitation for tea. Soon Hofmiller is a daily visitor at the castle. He enjoys the rich food and the warm welcome by Edith's family but remains ignorant of the fact that Edith is falling in love with him. When Hofmiller realises the extent of the girl's feelings for him, he dutifully asks for her hand in marriage. But Edith soon realises that Hofmiller just feels pity for her.

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Ensemble

McBurney designs his production as an experiment - researching the timeless lack of compassion. The stage design by Anna Fleischle resembles a museum space with some of the actors sitting at desks, whilst others are placed in front of microphones or exhibits as they take us to the past so vividly described by Stefan Zweig. Hofmiller's story is told in German by seven actors, swapping narration and dialogue, who are not individually credited. Stylised movement by the ensemble reflects Edith's disability or suggests a cavalry drill, accompanied by Pete Malkin's thunderous sound design. Video projections of desolate battlefields and boats of refugess (design by Will Duke) place this story in a contemporary perspective.

Laurenz Laufenberg is excellent as the young Anton Hofmiller as he stumbles into an abyss, prompted by his older self and his comrades, torn between recklessness and a kind of foreboding. Marie Burchard plays Edith as a stubborn, unstable young woman who is helplessly moved around the stage on a mobile table. Robert Beyer convinces as Edith's father, acting like an aristocrat but despised as a Jewish upstart by the community and Hofmiller's comrades. Johannes Flaschberger is compassionate as Edith's doctor.

Stefan Zweig wrote that there were two kinds of pity: "One, the weak and sentimental kind, which is really no more than the heart's impatience to be rid as quickly as possible of the painful emotion aroused by the sight of another's unhappiness, that pity which is not compassion, but only an instinctive desire to fortify one's own soul against the sufferings of another; and the other, the only one at counts, the unsentimental but creative kind, which knows what it is about and is determined to hold out, in patience and forbearance, to the very limit of its strength and even beyond". We have to ask ourselves what kind of pity we are guilty of.

The production is part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary.  

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 12th February 2017

Barbican Centre

Running time: 2 hours with no interval

Age guidance 12+

Performed in German with English surtitles

The show is now sold out but is available online:

Live stream online: 12 Feb 3pm GMT

Available online until 26 Feb 11.59 GMT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98C1vV49gXo

Watch on these websites:

complicite.org/live-stream

Photocredit: Gianmarco Bresadola

www.schaubuehne.de/en/pages/live-stream-beware-of-pity.html

http://blog.barbican.org.uk/2017/01/livestream-complicite-schaubuhne-berlins-beware-of-pity/