Archiv der Kategorie: English

The Power of Survival

Film review: Dunkirk (Director: Christopher Nolan)

By Sascha Krieger

What a beginning: a few soldiers are roaming a deserted street, peep into windows, look at the fliers sailing down from a peaceful sky. Suddenly a shot. One of the soldiers collapses. They start running. More shots. One by one they fall. With one exception: a very young soldier jumping over a fence, running until he reaches a beach. Vast. Full of people waiting. Waiting to be rescued from this deadly prison the town has become. This is how Dunkirk opens, Christopher Nolan’s film about one of the turning points of the Second World War. When after being stranded in the northern French town of Dunkirk, completely surrounded by German troops closing in, 350,000 mostly British soldiers were evacuated, this giving Britain the basis to continue and eventually win the war. A miracle many call it.

Weiterlesen

Advertisements

The Stubborn Absurdity of Hope

Tony Kushner: Angels in America, National Theatre, London (Director: Marianne Elliott)

By Sascha Krieger

„A gay fantasia on national themes“: the subtitle of Tony Kushner’s two-part take on an America at a watershed moment of history – between AIDS epidemic and end of the Cold War – hints at the scope of what is arguably one of the most significant plays of the 1990s. Opening in 1993 and 1994, respectively, the wounds are still visible, the pain still fresh. The death of certainties, the dread of an approaching apocalypse – the threat of a nuclear war was still real in 1985 when the play takes place while the environmental threats such as the vanishing ozone layer started getting mass attention – found expression in Kushner’s panorama of lost people questioning their identities, drifting along in the search for meaning, lashing out against the loss of the old world order. Built around a young man battling with AIDS, the loosely and sometimes bizarrely connected personnel are like explorers in a hostile and unknown universe who have to find their way mostly without help while longing for the closeness and warmth and support they all seem to have lost. With the arrival of the supernatural, an Angelic sphere that’s lost its God, the view widens to the universal. Humankind has to find their own way, no God will help, the angels being as lost as those they mean to protect.

Image: Helen Maybanks

Weiterlesen

Under Watchful Eyes

William Shakespeare: Hamlet, Almeida Theatre / Harold Pinter Theatre, London (Director: Robert Icke)

By Sascha Krieger

Oh, yes, there surely is something wrong in the state of Denmark. When Robert Icke’s celebrated production of Hamlet opens, we see: screens. TV footage from the late king’s funeral, later the new king smiling into the cameras, a multitude of CCTV images. Whether security or media: surveillance is everwhere in this production – as it is in the play. For, isn’t Hamlet a long succession of people spying on each other, hasn’t the royal court at Elsinore always been a surveillance state? So, transporting the story of the grieving prince, trying but failing to revenge his slain father, into an age in which the camera eye is always present, in which fear and attention are the twin driving forces leading to a society in which everyone is transparent as glass, feels rather logical. And Angus Wright’s nonchalantly plain Claudius is a perfect present-day ruler: agreeable enough, not a sore sight when smiling into the cameras, he’s an accomplished politician, slick, charming, an astute user of the media, a fine political instinct, a ruthless opportunist who knows how to play the fear card. He hardly ever gets loud, he doesn’t have to. He has the power to pull the strings and he does so in a chillingly efficient way.

The Harold Pinter Theatre (Image: Sascha Krieger)

Weiterlesen

Forever Young

Conor McPherson (Music & Lyrics by Bob Dylan): Girl from the North Country, The Old Vic, London (Director: Conor McPherson)

By Sascha Krieger

It’s probably the kind of phone call you never expect getting even when you’ve been an accomplished playwright for the better part of 20 years. When the record company of the most celebrated songwriter of the 20th century call, a man, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, a cultural icon, the stuff of legends and myths, appropriated or rejected by pretty much every social and cultural movement of the past 50 years, when they ask you if you’d be interested in using the man’s songs in an original play, what do you say? The initial response of Conor McPherson, a son of Dublin, Ireland, was no. Then he thought about it. And thought some more. And now, some four years later, the Girt from the North Country has been born on the stage of the Old Vic. So what’s to expect from a show built around Dylan’s prolific songbook? A musical weaving a this story around them to make them shine, Mamma-Mia-style? A glorified greatest hits concert with a bit of drama added to justify the ticket price? An attempt to filter a story out of the songs that tries to go beyond them but will always take second place? The answer is: none of the above. Girl from the North Country is a masterful play in its own right, conversing with the Minnesota bard’s music not being subservient to them, a symbiosis of play and songs, of words and music that turns out to be a lot more than the sum of its parts.

The Old Vic (Image: Sascha Krieger)

Weiterlesen

Pigs on the Shelf

Enda Walsh: Disco Pigs, Trafalgar Studios, London (Director: John Haidar)

By Sascha Krieger

About twenty years ago, the theatre world was swept by a new energy infusion courtesy of a few „young and wild“ playwrights from both sides of the Irish sea. Authors such as Mark Ravenhill, David Harrower or Martin Crimp put a high-paced hyper-reality on stage that was part unpolished, raw, previously hidden life, the life of a youth not recognised, not noticed, discarded, and part rhythmic celebration, a vertigo of lust and longing and violence, a rush of adrenaline and every puberty-driving hormone imaginable. The Irish voice – and perhaps its most radical one, too – of this „generation“ was Cork playwright. Enda Walsh. Long before he was dabbling with musicals, he gave us Disco Pigs: a wild, unique trip into the state of emergency that is the teenage brain and body. In it, two 17-year-olds, inseparable since their births at exactly the same time, drift, dance and punch themselves through their shared birthday. They do so in what seems like a long feverish dream, a rhythmic song, a drug-induced trip that will change their symbiotic relationship forever. Part Cork accent, part private fantasy language, part fairy tale between beat-style poetry and rhythmic prose, part energy-rich chamber play, Disco Pigs was an unashamed ride through unfulfilled longing, the despair that leads to people seeking someone to hold on to, the darkness that awaits those living on the side of the moon sunlight will never reach.

Trafalgar Studios (Image: Sascha Krieger)

Weiterlesen

Waiting for the Click

Tennessee Williams: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Apollo Theatre / Young Vic, London (Director: Benedict Andrews)

By Sascha Krieger

Of course, it’s hard not to think of Trump Tower. Instead of a 1950s Mississippi plantation mansion, Benedict Andrews‘ take on Tennessee Williams‘ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is located in front of a massive gilded wall, courtesy of Swiss set designer Magda Willi. This is a golden cage Williams‘ characters are caught in and it’s one clearly place in the here and now (as proven by the frequent use of mobile phones). A neon rectangle frames the stage which in itself is a rectangular island in a sea of shiny nothingness. All is polished, all is a lie. The setting – only a (black!) bed, a shower and a cosmetics table plus a few bottles of whiskey and a bag of ice are left as remnants of the real world – feels like a mixture of Beckettian emptiness and the all-surface world of reality TV. Where in Beckett everything beyond the stage is nothingness, here it’s the horror of the greed-ridden, image-based reality of today’s late-stage capitalism inhabited by cloned child monsters half Chucky half beauty pageant. And by adults that seem more like mechanical puppets, robots of the eternal hamster wheel of success.

The Apollo Theatre (Image: Sascha Krieger)

Weiterlesen

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)

Weiterlesen

When the World Is Closing In

Edward Albee: The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?, Theatre Royal Haymarket, London (Director: Ian Rickson)

By Sascha Krieger

„Notes toward a definition of tragedy“. This is the subtitle Edward Albee gave his 2002 Tony and Pulitzer winning play The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? What he was clearly interested in here is how the Aristotelian idea of tragedy can relate to and be transported into our enlightened, free, individualistic and democratic present days? A great man’s downfall at the hands of fate due to transgressions he might not even be in control of – how is that even conceivable today? He wasn’t the first to ask these questions in the modern age: Tennessee Williams‘ plays often test tragedic structure – interestingly often with female characters in the „hero’s“ role – Arthur Miller conceived Death of a Salesman as a modern tragedy, replacing the „great“ with the „ordinary“ man. Albee’s focus is different: he looks at what a „transgression“ triggering the mechanics of tragedy might be today and he asks society whether it has completely shade its taboo-enhancing, punishing nature yet. The answers he comes up with in The Goat are rather terrifying.

Theatre Royal Haymarket (Image: Sascha Krieger)

Weiterlesen

When Darkness Comes

Edward Albee: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Harold Pinter Theatre, London (Director: James MacDonald)

By Sascha Krieger

There seems to be a sense out there in what we call the „Western world“ of decline, of having our best days behind us, a desire to find our way back to a golden age when things were clearer, better, less, confusing, more black and white. In the United States, for example, a hollow reality TV character just got elected President on the stunningly meaningless promise to „Make America Great Again“. When, one might ask, was America „great“ and what was its greatness? Many point back to the 1950s, an idyllic yet modern, quiet yet industrial America unperturbed by social unrest, fresh off winning a world war, self-confident and free from self-doubt. Sure, there was McCarthy, moral oppression and a deeply entrenched patriarchal society but aren’t those minor flaws – or perhaps none at all? Edward Albee’s perennial audience favourite Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is set against this America’s backdrop. A well-respected couple, he a college professor, she the university President’s daughter, inviting a new teacher and his wife into their home. What could go wrong? The answer should be pretty well-known by now: everything. For, beyond the shiny surface lies a yawning abyss, a black nothingness of fear and desolation. The black hole of a world on the brink of distinction.

The Harold Pinter Theatre (Image: Sascha Krieger)

Weiterlesen

The Story of It All

Tom Stoppard: Travesties, Menier Chocolate Factory / Apollo Theatre, London (Director: Patrick Marber)

By Sascha Krieger

1920s music is playing, the battered red curtain evokes the heyday of comic theatre and the music hall. An old man in a worn out bathrobe and a tattered straw hat shuffles on stage. He tries to raise the curtain, taps on it, smiles uneasily. First, nothing happens, then, slowly, the curtain goes up, an cluttered old library in revealed, books everywhere, pages on the floor, a labyrinth of remembered – and forgotten – knowledge. In Tom Stoppard’s early play Travesties, Henry Carr, an employee at the British Consulate in Zurich in 1917, remembers the days when the swiss city was a centre of revolution: Lenin in exile, James Joyce re-inventing the novel, Dada questioning the very nature of art. And Carr at the centre of it all, spying on Lenin, becoming friends with Dada hero Tristan Tzara, playing in a theatre production put on by Joyce. At least this is how he remembers it. It will be only at the very end, that the audience will know how unreliable Carr as a narrator is. He re-invents himself in the process, tells of meetings that never could have happened and mixes up life and art by transforming his story, or rather stories, into a version of Oscar Wilde’s The importance of Being Earnest, the very play he acted in in Zurich.

The Apollo Theatre (Image: Sascha Krieger)

Weiterlesen