Posts Tagged ‘ Christopher Oram ’

Danton’s Death: review

Olivier Theatre, National Theatre
Dir: Michael Grandage

Georg Büchner’s 1835 play, Danton’s Death, is an emotionally intense and deeply philosophical dissection of the cracks which opened up at the heart of the French Revolution. Georges Danton, a moderate revolutionary, began to speak out against the regime’s reliance on the guillotine and Robespierre’s increasingly tyrannical rule. Robespierre turned on his former ally and sent him to the guillotine.

In Michael Grandage’s production of this new version of the play, by Howard Brenton, self-destruction is the order of the day. Christopher Oram’s high-walled, hexagonal set becomes a crucible in which language is the catalyst for the events of the play.

Elliot Levey as Robespierre is reptilianly cold-blooded, manipulating the people with ease. His controlled nasal drawl is in stark contrast to Toby Stephen’s Danton. Occasionally in danger of veering into stereotype, this Danton is a high-minded libertine. Büchner’s bleak philosophy feeds into his every line and Stephens expertly communicates the fatigue and world-weariness behind the darkly comic lines. The night before his execution, sleeping in a lice-ridden cell, for example, Danton quips that it is not the lice but the worms he is worried about.

Whilst Büchner’s men are masterpieces in psychological credibility, the few women who feature in the play are largely unconvincing. Kirsty Bushell does her best with the difficult role of Danton’s wife and Rebecca O’Mara makes what she can of the mad Lucile.

The final coup de theatre, though rather different in tone from the rest of the piece, is truly shocking and a wonderful reminder of the power of stage-craft.

Brenton’s version of Büchner’s classic strips the play down to its core: the people of France are banished from the stage. This is not a study of revolution, but a study of the disintegration of human relationships. In closing down Büchner’s original, Grandage and Brenton have given the text a wider relevance.