Mr Kolpert / March 13th, ’13

theatre misc
This is a play from the year 2002 – it’s been archived by the State Theatre, recorded by one fixed camera, strictly for research purposes. Now because Simon Burke is brilliant and a miracle worker, I was allowed into the archives of the theatre to watch this surrealistic farce by  young German author David Gieselmann. To say I was happily overwhelmed is an understatement.

Title giving Mr Kolpert is a work colleague in a higher position of Sarah and Ralf. The two have invited friends – but their apartment is bare except for a rather large chest in the middle of the living room. There is nothing to eat as well! So when Edith and Bastian (Simon Burke) arrive there’s the question what to drink, eat and where to sit… And while Ralf is ordering pizza on the phone (not made easier by wife and guests repeatedly changing/repeating the varieties they want) Sarah also makes small talk – did they know Mr Kolpert?

There is an ominous knocking sound nobody can place at first – does it come from outside, is the pizza already being delivered? Or is it in the next room – or is it… the chest … the one item in the room nobody can overlook, the pink elephant?

And then it turns out – Mr Kolpert, with whom meek Edith of all people says she had an affair, who is missing – has been killed. Sarah and Ralf have killed him and stuffed him into the chest that is still standing in the middle of their bare living room. So while they are waiting for their pizzas to be delivered and while Bastian gets more and more aggressive, he and Edith try to open the chest while Sarah and Ralf are trying to prevent that. Even pizza delivery boy joins in – mostly because he’s mixed up their orders – and the terror of knowing that there is a dead person in their midst grows.

When they finally manage to break the chest open… it is empty.

But in the midst of relief and growing jealousy on Bastian’s side, growing confusion on pizza boy’s and simple glee on Sarah and Ralf’s because they were able to fool them all… fists fly and in the tumble between the two men and the two women with pizza boy as a reluctant spectator, they crash into a wall.

Mr Kolpert.

The killing couple had stuffed the corpse  into the dry wall.

It is as if the revelation of the murder and the uncovering of the corpse has freed primal instincts in everybody. They barely and now for real have stuffed Kolpert into the large chest when rage and bottled up anger come to the fore. And it is Edith, shy, meek Edith, who finally raises her hand against her husband under whose short fuse she obviously had suffered for years. Bastian is still half alive when they stuff him, with multiple stab wounds bleeding out, into the chest to their first victim. Because… to kill somebody could be the new normal…

This farce is a brilliant example that even partly repetitive and even nonsensical text combined with a strange, weird plot full of violence and malignance can make sense and lead to some soul searching in the audience if, IF great actors lend their talent.

As was the case in this production. There was not one moment – not even the laughable ones – when I wasn’t mesmerized by the sheer ferocity of Sarah and Ralf and by the very clever way they lured first Bastian, then Edith into their spider’s web of lies and deception, until Edith finally snapped.

And I had to think – what does it take to snap? How cold are we already to dine over a dead body, just being happy it’s not us. And how did Sarah and Ralf first start to kill…

It might also not come as a surprise that I was absolutely enraptured by Burke’s portrayal of Bastian – his command of his voice, facial expressions and finally body made it a joy to watch his fight with his rage, his conscious and finally with Ralf and with Edith and Sarah. He delivered yet another remarkable piece of work and I was so glad I was allowed to watch it.

It’s an amazing play and I am so very privileged to have seen it. My gratitude knows no bounds. (I want a DVD – yes, I am that entitled!) LOL

Cat on a hot tin roof March 12th, ’13

theatre misc

First of all – the Belvoir theatre in Surry Hills, Sydney, has THE best customer service in the world!
I was able to organise a ticket for Cat even during my 28 hour flight to Sydney. And the play was virtually sold out and I couldn’t book online any longer.  All I had to do was get there and show them my credit card. amazing.

As was the play. Amazing that is. A great cast, minimalistic stage – that’s all that’s needed if you have the right actors.

more to follow soon

Driving Miss Daisy March 12th, ’13

theatre misc

I think I am a very lucky person. I also think I saw theatre history being made. I watched Angela Lansbury, who is 87, and James Earl Jones, a spritely 82, cover the span of almost 30 years on stage and not one second did I not believe what I saw.

It’s in comparison a short play, about 90 minutes and without an interval, that tells the story of hardheaded Miss Daisy, 72, who crashes her brand new car and is therefore given a chauffeur – her son insists. It takes her six days (the time the Lord needed to create the world, so Hoke, her driver) until she accepts the help – not very gracefully at first. But over the timespan of 30 years those two headstrong, opinionated people evolve – not only to friends who respect each other but also to politically aware people who see the change in America even though change took a while longer in the southern states.

There’s also subtle changes in how Lansbury and to a lesser degree Jones succumb to their age – Lansbury taking longer down the stairs, then needing a cane. And finally – after having a stroke and being confined to a care home – a shift in her facial muscles and a little slur to her speech. But still these two people have their dignityas dignity isn’t something that can be taken away from them – it’s within them.

standing ovation. rightfully so.

It’s a tour the force and both – plus Boyd Gaines as the son Boolie – are very obviously having a lot of fun delivering their biting lines. I know there’s a very popular movie with Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, but I really would start any petition known to man to have this play in this cast being filmed.

One tiny thing that both drove me bonkers and made me smile: the glossy program that’s really brilliantly done, has a very embarrassing error in the message of the producer, John Frost: he writes about James Earl James, not Jones. So I point this out to some important guy in a suit and it turns out – the program had been produced like this since Brisbane and nobody had picked up on the error. seems I’m quite good at my job… LOL

The Addams Family March11th, ’13

theatre misc

The Addams Family – first preview today – and yes, it looked pretty perfect to me. The cast is eager and having fun, the audience as well and we all were given masks to pose as Fester for a pic for the Australian Daily Telegraph who is sponsoring the whole show. Chloe Dallimore doesn’t only look gorgeous and has a strong voice, she’s also a comedienne and tangoes with the best of them. Her Morticia is amazing.

Gomez is John Waters and he does look rather old for gorgeous Chloe, but he has a nice  though not very strong voice and is almost continually on stage. So it’s probably just make-up that’s giving him the air of decades or is that decay 😉 He does have to carry the show, but doesn’t come across as very suave while trying to. Finding another Gomez would probably benefit the play.
Tim Maddren as the young love interest is appropriately yummie and in love, so that’s fine as well.
My Pugsley was Blake Hurford who was also Michael Banks in Mary Poppins (there is the scene where Grandma explaines a potion:”It would turn Mary Poppins into Medea” and he says: I don’t get your references” I was laughing already, too funny even without the added: well then get off your phone and read  a book once in a while)  – incredibly talented and fun to watch as the monstrous younger brother who loves to blow things up. He has a great fun torture scene and a huge solo number and aces both.

The story itself is nothing much to write home about: Wednesday is in love and wants to marry, her chosen boy is from a normal family. The first family dinner therefore ends in desaster. (we see that but with catchy-er tunes in La Cage aux Folles)  But love conquers all and in the end all three pairs (or four if you count Fester and the Moon) are together and living happily ever after or – in true Addams tradition: Are you unhappy, my love? Yes, truly and utterly unhappy, darling!

The first half is very much fun with the introduction of the quirky characters – they even resurrect the already dead ancestors that are mentioned in the program; – and the laying ground of the rather thin story line. the second half has two really great numbers – Death is waiting round the Cor(o)ner and Tango d’Amour – but is slower and weaker than the first half.

Remarkable the truly awesome stage design and the beautiful costumes. And there were even some political remarks inserted into the dialogue: what is it that everybody wants and not everybody has (Love would have been the answer but Morticia quips: “Marriage equality?”
so it’s a fun show that is worth a visit. oh, and yes, I had a first row ticket 😉 but I now also understand why it didn’t have a long run on Broadway.

Mrs Warren’s Profession March ’13

mrswarren

Take a look at the picture I posted. No, for once I don’t mean the gorgeous and talented man in it – look at the curtain: it’s made of roses, and to enhance that visual the theatre adds the scent of roses to it before each show. An enchanted hedgerow of pink and pale red blossoms, its thorns protecting the girl hidden inside – Sleeping Beauty comes to mind at the imagery.

And an innocent Sleeping Beauty she is, Vivien Warren, who lives in this secluded garden. Her goal is to accumulate knowledge, and from this ivory tower of science she dreams of an intellectual life of financial security spent with friends.

As it is her awakening will be a rude one. Up until now Viv has only been a mollycoddled spoiled child, with all the money she needed or wanted, and hasn’t seen much of her mother who has been travelling most of the time, keeping an eye on businesses unknown. Now that Viv’s studies are mostly finished, she is brought into the real world – and fails to deliver. Her mother wants to be friends and therefore invites her into the enchanted garden for a holiday – something Viv despises deeply – maybe because she doesn’t know what to do with life.

To esase the strain of this first longer meeting mother Kitty Warren has invited a good friend, architect Mr Praed (Simon Burke), to join them. Also coming is her business associate Crofts. And indeed, Praed is the perfect ice breaker as he arrives prior to Mrs Warren and Crofts. Charming and charmed by Vivien’s unconventionality he eases her out of her shell by confiding that he is an “anarchist, I can’t abide the law.” But in doing so he still is trying to uphold the strict regulations society requires of him in his day and age – he fights for the “hard chair” and even though he loses he still has done what convention asks of him.

Crofts – when he finally shows up, trailing Mrs Warren – is a man who knows his worth and his standing in society. He demands attention and is almost immediately drawn to the young woman. Secure in the knowledge of his wealth and position he decides to marry her – and thus asks Praed if he knows who Viv’s father is – after all, Mrs Warren has made this a secret to day.

But Praed, even though apparently well informed, has no idea – he is proud to be Kitty’s friend, and in being her friend he does not attempt to know all her secrets – or even know her as well as other men probably have. He takes his pride that he is the one man she can turn to without having to fear he would misuse her trust. He is also fairly disgusted of Crofts’ ambition to marry Viv – Crofts after all was “born old! I was born a boy.,.”

Finally enter Frank, who, with boyish charm and an immature, childish enthusiasm pursues Viv – with the best of intentions of course: As the young woman seems to have all the money she wants, he is definitely ready to marry her – in order to finally get out of his financial troubles his rather flippant lifestyle brings on.

And thus the story unfolds. Mrs Warren, a lot more hands on and less lady-like than her educated daughter, demands her daughter’s love and respect, Crofts wants to marry Viv (as long as he isn’t her father) and reminds her that he won’t live forever. And Frank is adamant to defend his ticket out of his debts – even with a rifle, if need be. But it is Crofts who fires the parting shot: he re-introduces Viv and Frank – they are half siblings, the reverend apparently their father.

With that the gorgeous hedgerow vanishes – Viv has been awakened to the circumstances of her mother’s life – a life she has benefitted her whole life from. And while she pragmatically and rationally understands that women might be in troubling circumstances that force them into a life they would not normally want to choose she cannot understand why her mother, settled and rich for years now, hadn’t abandoned the profession she had been forced into so many years ago. With all her education and her own dreams of independence she cannot comprehend that for her mother, staying in this business as a madame hads been the only way to be as independent as she wanted to be.

And so Viv breaks with her former life – she no longer accepts her mother’s checks, she works for her living. And she has to accept that Frank is distancing himself from her: not because of her mother, he argues, but because she cannot support him and herself. And so Viv’s only friend stays Praed, the hapless romantic, always in search of beauty and art in everything. He will flit in and out of her life, a friend, nothing more, while she is alone. just as alone as her mother who wasn’t able to buy a daughter’s love with all the money she made.

Now it’s no surprise that I really enjoyed Simon Burke’s portrayal of the helpless, hapless architect who means well, but fails to be of any help. Praed is a bit like the audience – partly in the know, but unable to stir the play into a different direction. His part has some funny one liners which he deadpans with brilliant timing, and his wide eyed surprise/shock is one of the highlights of the play. It is certainly credit to his huge talent that he commandeers the scenes he is in – with ease and elegance, I might add.

Also brilliant in her part: Helen Thomson as Kitty Warren. Her immaculate lady with the shady present comes through when she tries to get a reaction out of her daughter, abandoning the high class dulcet tones in favor of a vulgar London brogue that has no place in society.

Frank – Eamon Farren – is suitably young and charming and captures the good for nothing attitude with verve. He is the young version of Crofts – Martin Jacobs – who made his money by investing in shady dealings but still is able to hold his position in society. Both men have never worked a day in their lives and still are honored members of nobility. Frank’s “roman father” Drew Forsythe is every bit the comic relief as well as the center of the play. He succumbs to the sudden changes in his life with ungraceful embarrassement, which is incredibly funny to watch.

The weakest link in the play is unfortunately young Lizzie Schebesta – Viv – who emphasizes the modernity of her character without realising the restrictions that still came with being a young woman in the 1900s. Her facial reactions and expressions are too “modern day” to translate well into a character of 1902, the year the play has been first brought onto a stage. She shows none of the trepidation a woman in her time would have certainly felt when all of a sudden plunged into a life dependent only on her own. Her “awakening” feels as if she’s made up her mind to move into a smaller apartment in the city, not as the decision to live alone from now on.

But aside from that one bit of criticism I love the show, the minimalistic stage design is incredibly well done and choreographed in the changing of the scenery. and Shaw’s words have not lost their appeal – his reckoning with the double morale and double standards of his time are as apt as they were then. And we all should try and think about the prejudices we still carry around – and about what or how much it takes to make us forget them…