Don Carlos Nov 16th,’18

theatre misc

 

Don Carlos at the Rose Theatre. The cast is amazing, the translation great, and works well with the pathos of Schiller’s play. Schiller – one professor calls him the German Shakespeare, which I think is a bit (overly) enthusiastic. But he certainly was a theatre man, with highly socialist/democratic views which had him investigated and at one point even fleeing authorities. He raged against the rule of crowned authoritarianism but lived just long enough to see the French revolution devolve into Napoleon being crowned emperor.

Don Carlos is about a crown prince who draws the short straw in everything in life except his birthright. He will inherit the Spanish crown, as soon as his father dies. He wants a peaceful future for the Netherlands , a country currently rebelling against the catholic Spaniard who’s oppressing them and is willing to negotiate,  but his father, the king, is sending troops. He’s in love with the French bride that was chosen for him and she loves him back, but his father, the king, steps in and marries her instead, having a daughter with her. It’s no surprise that the young man (I’m 23 and haven’t accomplished anything yet) rages against conventions. (Samuel Valentine is perfect for the part, down to the firy red hair he sports)

When the Marquis Posa, a freethinker, his former teacher/friend/mentor comes back to court, Carlos is already involved in desperate attempts to reconnect with his stepmother, whom he still loves, ignoring the fact that another strong woman, the princess Eboli, a concubine of his father, has set her eyes on him. She lures Carlos to a secret room, and he comes, thinking it’s the queen who wants to see him. Thus compromised, and found out by Eboli, his life and the life of the queen are in mortal danger.

And then it seems that his friend Posa, who shares his political views and understands his love for the woman who is now queen, has been instrumentalised by the king to spy on Carlos. Which of course sends the prince further into a downward spiral. What Carlos doesn’t realise is that Posa is trying to help and keep the prince safe from repercussions a jealous court has been planning. He manages to secure incriminating letters, sharing only harmless ones with the king, the one Eboli wrote amongst them. This leads to Eboli being despatched into a nunnery, and, because a jealous king needs a scapegoat, to Posa’s downfall. When the Marquis comes to explain every detail of his plan to the prince, he knows he lives on borrowed time. He has arranged for Carlos to flee to France, and to say a last farewell to the queen, who has been under investigation herself by the king. But just as Carlos urges Posa to join him, a shot is fired. The king himself has killed Posa, but reinstates his son as prince. He then seeks pardon for the murder from the head of the inquisition (also played by Tom Burke, which I thought was a cool idea, to see the two ends of the spectrum portrayed by the same actor, seeing the same kind of passion given to frighteningly different view points). They come to an understanding that’s chilling in its simplicity.

When Carlos uses his new freedom to meet with the queen, to inform her of his departure to France, another shot echoes. The queen falls, dead. The Prince collapses in tears, but is pried from her body by the inquisition to be taken away to an uncertain/certain future. The king prevails, his crown hollow.

As I said before, i liked the cast, esp. Darrell dSilva as king and Tom Burke as Posa (duh). I remembered the play as being a pathos laden – sorry – clunker, and was positively surprised by how relevant it was made  and of how much of Trump’s spiralling was incorporated into the portrayal of the king. Loved the monologue with which Posa seems to win over the ruthless regent (Sire, give people the right to think!) which of course is the heart of the play, made even more powerful because in the end everyone is punished for the things they dared to think.

I loved Valentine as Carlos. He had the perfect measure of rage and desperation, all of Sturm und Drang and never came across as hysterical or a drama queen. Both Alexandra Dowling and Kelly Gough (queen and Eboli) were great, though laden with the tall order to speak as fast as humanely possible which makes it a bit hard to actually understand a thing. Takes a while ti get accustomed to the speed.

dSilva is a wonderful – in a scary frightening as shit, crazy terrible way of course – king whose sole reason to live is holding on to the old ways. His portayal of the sheer mistrust that leads to murder is a fast spiral into madness. Brillinatly done.

Tom Burke. Yum. I’m trying not to be overly shallow, but of course his good looks help the portrayal of the hero. He is the quietly passionate philosopher, the herald of a future without repercussions, of a better way of living and a cleaner way of politics. Schiller with his way of writing invites great gestures and pathos but thankfully this Posa is one of subtlety, which makes his supplication in front of the king while demanding Gedankenfreiheit –  freedom to think – even more impressive. And while Iliked the cast, he’s the only one NOT to fall into the pathos trap. Thankmyou for that.

I was not overwhelmed by the lightless stage. It’s an interesting idea to place one spotlight on stage that glares i to the face of the poor actor who has to talk, but it is not an ideal thing. Loved the mostly empty stage, it gives your imagination a nudge and doesn’t clutter your brain. And i understand why the actors don’t like the empty space on the floor in front of the stage, where people can buy cheap pillow seats. While i understand the need for cheap seats – even in front of the stage -, I hate when only four people brave the hunkering down. Talked to an usherette, who rightfully remarked, when it’s a children’s play it’s packed. That’s right, but a play that starts at 8 pm and has only grown ups as audience (and a good dozen fled during intermission, obviously not up for the heavy lifting the play affords) should be given more seating right up front (they’re working on just that, btw)

Stage door… damn but Tom Burke looks fiiiine. Is all I’m saying

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