Posts Tagged ‘ New Diorama Theatre ’

The Robbers, New Diorama Theatre: review

by Friedrich Schiller
Dir: Mark Leipacher

‘Man is moulded out of dirt.’ Mark Leipacher’s production of Schiller’s The Robbers at the New Diorama Theatre sets out to show the cruelty man is capable of and the terrifying vertigo of an amoral world.The Robbers, New Diorama Theatre, Schiller

As an old Count dies, his younger son schemes, plots and murders his way to his older brother’s inheritance. Franz cold-heartedly tricks his father into disinheriting Karl, who, believing his father has banished him, turns to a group of robbers. But Robin Hood’s merry men, they are not.

Richard Delaney is the best kind of villain – seductive, cunning and entirely without conscience. He stands over his dying father and, exasperated, asks ‘How long do old men live for?’ He is the Iago of the play and Delaney’s black comic timing creates a delectably detestable baddie.

As his wronged brother Karl, Michael Lindall has a more difficult task: one character describes Karl as a ‘purring nancy’ and he’s not far wrong. Lindall starts uncomfortably, more sulky than tormented, but comes into his own in the second half. As Karl despairs of returning home and earning his father’s forgiveness, he becomes a darker, more complex character: “I am my own heaven and I am my own Hell”. His moral code allows for the incidental slaughter of innocent men, women and children as he rescues a friend from the gallows, but is disgusted when one of his band throws a chubby toddler back into the flames. Lindall struggles to convey the subtleties of Karl’s character but does better with the real Sturm und Drang moments.

Jamie Champion is convincingly black-hearted as robber Spiegelberg while Jude Owusu-Achiaw manages to be the diamond in the rough as Schweizer. Karl’s steadfast but fiery fiancé, Amalia, is played by a forthright Kate Sawyer while Lana Booty’s old Count, Max, is touching and Lear-like.

Leipacher has set out to make this play accessible: it is modern dress, the updated script (by Daniel Millar and Mark Leipacher) is peppered with modern obscenities and the robbers’ banter is straight out of the twenty-first century. But The Robbers is not a modern story, with its Counts, curses, castles and highwaymen and so the modern dress tends to grate.

The stage is stripped bare and all the walls painted black, allowing the cast to use chalk to write or draw on every surface – a technique which manages to underline both the fragility of life and the weakness of the lies woven by Franz. Yet occasionally Leipacher tries too hard and there are three or four things which demand the audience’s attention at once – dialogue, someone writing in chalk, people fighting. It would do no harm to allow the story to speak for itself now and again.

At around three hours, including an interval, the evening is overly long but Leipacher’s production is a thrilling piece of drama with enthralling plot twists, ladles of dramatic irony and a brilliant villain at its heart.

 

 

This review first appeared on The Public Reviews here.

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Theatrigirl’s Weekly Highlights

As the winter chill begins to set in, here’s Theatrigirl’s list of reasons to be cheerful this week. There’s Hamlet at the National, whimsical fun at Upstairs at the Gatehouse and Anthony Sher in Arthur Miller at the Tricycle. Brave the cold and wrap yourself up in a good play…

  • Or You Could Kiss Me, Cottesloe Theatre, National TheatreInteresting new puppetry piece by Neil Bartlett about how to say goodbye: an “intimate history of two very private lives.” The puppets have been created by the same team as War Horse.

    Previews from 28 Sept

  • Burn My Heart, New Diorama TheatreAdapted from Beverley Naidoo’s novel of the same name, this production, by theatre companies Trestle and Blindeye, is part of Black History Month. The play is set during the Mau Mau uprising in 1950s Kenya and focuses on the destruction wrought by the conflict on the lives of two young boys.

    28 Sept-2 Oct

  • Hamlet, Olivier Theatre, National TheatreHamlet is this season’s “must-have” – the Crucible is also staging a production at the moment and the National have commissioned a “prequel” to Shakespeare’s work (The Prince of Denmark) which will open next week. Rory Kinnear takes the title role in Nicholas Hytner’s production in the NT’s Olivier Theatre.

    Previews from 30 Sept

  • Broken Glass, The TricycleAnthony Sher stars in Arthur Miller’s tale of guilt, love and tragedy in 1930s Brooklyn.

    Previews from 30 Sept

  • The Drowsy Chaperone, Upstairs at the GatehouseA musical within a musical. A self-conscious parody. An anonymous narrator introduces and guides the audience through his favourite musical: The Drowsy Chaperone from 1928. Frivolous frippery.

    23 Sept-31 Oct

  • Spare, New Diorama Theatre: review

    This review was written for the website www.thepublicreviews.com and the original can be found here.

    Writer/Director: Sebastian Rex
    Designer: Kasper Svenstrup-Hansen

    Composer: Theo Holloway

    Human interaction is manipulative and abusive. This is the premise of Sebastian Rex’s play, Spare. In Rex’s world, people are victim or aggressor, abused or abuser. Everything is black and white in this deliberately, disarmingly naïve piece of theatre.

    Eight “gender-neutral” characters are played by a different cast member each evening. Necessarily, therefore, this review can only deal with one possible version of the show. The aggressors are distorted versions of traditional authority figures – Parent, Police, Doctor. In a visually effective piece of stage-craft, their hands are smeared with black paint so that each contact with their victim leaves a visible mark.

    Although Rex – who both writes and directs – purposely avoids a plot, there is a hint of a narrative which links three characters’ stories of abuse. Pranty is the picture of vulnerability and Billie Vee in the role is haunting. She is an over-grown child: an innocent in a corrupt and baffling world.

    There is also excellent work from Laura Corbett as the menacing “Doctor” – by turns leering, calming then threatening. Guy Warren-Thomas as Sam delivers the final monologue with an ease which complements the amorality of the speech. A mention should also go to composer Theo Holloway, whose simple, ethereal music chimed precisely with the tone of the action on stage.

    Yet despite the strong performances, Spare feels incomplete. The Production needs to be seen more than once for the character-switching to be appreciated: one viewing only provides a single piece of the puzzle. And by necessity there is little character development. Without believable characters the lack of solid narrative begins to frustrate and what is effectively a stream of monologues becomes tiring.

    Overall, this is a disjointed but thought-provoking piece of theatre. Although many of its ideas fizzled out before they’d had chance to develop, Spare is nevertheless a surprisingly funny, cartoonishly naïve vision of the effects of manipulation.

    Runs at the New Diorama until 25 September.