Archiv der Kategorie: Barbican

Who’ll Break the Circle?

Based on the film by Luchino Visconti: Obsession, Toneelgroep Amsterdam / Barbican Centre, London / Wiener Festwochen (Director: Ivo van Hove)

By Sascha Krieger

Emptiness. A bare, somewhat modernist room filled with nothingness. Cool, functional, lifeless. Two people, far apart. If there is a relationship, it’s one of power. The distance is palpable. In the middle of Jan Versweyveld’s stage, there is an old large engine hanging from the ceiling. It stutters then goes out. A young man enters the stage, wistfully playing the harmonica. He will get the engine started – in more than one way. Luchino Visconti’s debut film Ossessione is a tale of unbridled passion and its destructiveness. The juxtaposition of a cold, power-based marriage and the heat of an obsessive affair leads to disaster. There is no middle ground, no gray among the black and the white. In Ivo van Hove’s stage adaptation, the sweltering heat of the film is replaced by a chilling coolness. Spaces are wide, distances large, bodies tense. When Gino, the young drifter, and Hanna, the oppressed, wife finally get together, a suspended accordion is playing. The bodies dance a ballet of constricted, obsessive passion. The climax is signalled by long-held dissonant chord. Closeness is achieved, the distance overcome. Nothing is good.

The Barbican Centre (Image: Sascha Krieger)

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Something’s Wrong in the State of England

London theatre trip (6): William Shakespeare: King Lear, Royal Shakespeare Company / Barbican Centre, London (Director: Gregory Doran)

By Sascha Krieger

What contrast: when the audience enters, the stage is filled with cowering beggars, wrapped in ragged, greying blankets. When the lights go out, they quickly disappear, making way for a different show: a magnificent court towered over by a king richly clad in gold and fur, being carried in by his servants. The difference between those on top and the forgotten downtrodden could not be more striking and it sets the tone for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s latest production of King Lear. The poor, the starving have no voices in this play but they have a presence on this stage, re-appearing repeatedly during the night’s more than three hours. They serve as a constant reminder about what the foundation for the ruling who we see scheming and plotting and murdering is. And how unstable that foundation is. Niki Turner’s set is dominated by towering brick walls but they cannot keep reality outside. and so they diminish over time, giving way to white spaces, worlds still to be conceived. RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran’s production of King Lear is the portrait of a crumbling society, one falling because it does not acknowledge those it does not want to see. In this sense, Lear’s disintegration is a symptom, but even more so a metaphor of this disintegration.

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The Gods of Violence

William Shakespeare: Hamlet, The Barbican, London (Director: Lyndsey Turner)

By Sascha Krieger

Hamlet, obviously. There is an unwritten rule in English-language theatre that an actor – in order to be considered great – needs to play the Danish prince at least once, a rule that no longer exclusively applies to male actors, by the way. Benedict Cumberbatch who has recently made the journey from support to TV star to the Hollywood A list is no exception. What has been exceptional are the marketing effort mounted by the Barbican and the near-hysterical hype around the production culminating in a veritable break with tradition when two London newspapers, among them „The Times“, reviewed the previews, a hitherto unimaginable scandal. So two questions arise: how can Lyndsey Turner’s production withstand the buzz and is Cumberbatch a good Hamlet? The latter question is easier to answer: he is. The actor who tends to play reclusive characters is a surprisingly extrovert Hamlet. Not that much of a brooder, his Prince of Denmark wrestles with peace and violence in what is the central struggle of this production.

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