Saturday, May 05, 2012

 Sunday afternoon found me at the Barbican.

Oddly, courtesy of Mark Ravenhill.

I spied a tweet from he a couple of weeks ago raving about Some German Play that he said was absolutely tremendous.

I spied a Guardian review of said aforementioned tremendous play. That said it was tremendous and went so far as to bestow five stars on it.

Then it dawned on me that I had a free day in London town courtesy of an obliging Monday morning meeting in Reading.

A little google and a 4pm on the appropriate Sunday performance was revealed. With about eleven tickets left, all with a restricted view, all exorbitantly expensive. But of course this only made me more determined to go. So I snapped one up.

The show was (is) Gross und Klein. Courtesy of Sydney Theatre Company. 

By a remarkable twist of fate, I've seen this theatre company before. Their Streetcar Named Desire with Cate Blanchett as Blanche. It was AMAzing.

This Gross und Klein also considerately featured Cate Blanchett. And this five star review.

So there I was, further swelling the coffers of the Barbican clutching an expensive coffee and cake to fortify me for pleasures ahead. Front row seat, though slightly to one side of the stage. The view didn't appear remotely restricted. I felt triumphant. And a further thrill when two most intellectual bohemian (trilby) men behind me excused me and asked whether I'd had to smuggle my coffee in. I said (too Traverse familiar) that I'd just trotted in, bold as brass and no-one had fussed. Oh, they said. Sagely. And I fancied their eyes were full of new respect. They sat back. And I heard them speaking of a recent conversation with Martin Crimp (his translation, you see). Not, as I might, in reference to something I'd heard on the radio. But in reference to a real conversation. That they had had. With Martin Crimp. I shivered with pleasure. This surely was where the theatrical zeitgeist was being fashioned as we supped our expensive caffeinated milk.

Eagerly, bohemianly, I asked the man next to me if he knew anything about the play. Oh no, nothing, he said, glancing nervously at me. A why are you speaking to me I don't know you you're not a bohemian just some girl that's bothering me look. He'd been told it was very good, he muttered, so had come to see it. I waited for him to ask me in return. He did not. I persisted. Did he know how long it lasted? I'd imagined an hour and a bit. Maybe an hour and a half. Spoilt Fringe audience. Three hours, he thought. This shut me up.

A little silence.

Lights down.

It began.

Beautiful set. Blank stage. A white perspex gutter at the front of it. Framed by a - imagine a prosc arch height wire picture frame.  A pair of adult size Mary Jane shoes (white) on the black step down from the white perspex panel. A cocktail glass plus lurid drink to one side of the perspex panel. A beautiful opening.

Lights out.


Lights up.

There was Cate. Feet in shoes, sat approx six feet away from me, fiddling with the straw in the cocktail glass.


And so it began.

Now the problem was I thought I was seeing something else altogether. I'd somehow absorbed from a whistlestop review of The Five Star Review that this was a play about a woman (Cate) who went mad. So I spent the entire (probably two hours forty inc. interval) seeing this in the story.

Lotte (Cate) potters through life driven increasingly mad - though maybe mad already - by people's (unsympathetic) foibles.

Having read some reviews subsequently, you might also see it as: Lotte potters through life observing people's foibles but trying to remain kind.

Maybe both ways are right.

In lots of ways, the story doesn't matter. The production was incredibly beautiful. Incredibly smartly staged. A witty script. Beautiful lights. Cracking sound. Spot on designer costumes. Some gorgeous set. The phone box. Man!
Brilliantly cast across the board when it came to the middle-class unsympathetic foible-rs.

And Cate. A proper star. Like you didn't really want to watch anyone else when she was on stage. And whether she was mad or whether she was nice but misunderstood doesn't really matter because you had all the sympathy in the world with her as she skipped and growled and simpered and fiddled with the straw and crawled and leapt and slunk and danced or simply gazed golden and serene into space. Like she was the only person in the room.

It's a tribute to the other actors that they were entirely a match for her.

I came away confused bemused and puzzled. As the resolve didn't seem to bear any relation to the story I'd expected. A couple of reviews later and I figured I'd mis-imagined the story. Admittedly, I know nothing of mad absurdist German playwrights from the seventies so an appreciation of their quest might have helped. I imagined Siobhan would have been able to give me the dramaturgy.

Peculiarly, though puzzlement continues to abound, it was a magic two and some hours that I would not swap for the world. A fellow attendee sent me her review of it, perhaps sympathising with my confused post-show tweet. Perhaps I was not alone in my befuddle.

Must try harder. Read more. Be cleverer. Same old.

Still, it was beautiful, stellar fun. For that alone, I'd buy the ticket over.


Post a Comment

<< Home