Rose Theatre Kingston
Reviewed – 7th November 2018
“passionless, tedious, and incoherent”
Friedrich Schiller, renowned German writer and radical member of the ‘storm and stress’ movement, is not unfamiliar to British audiences, with a well-reviewed production of “Don Carlos” starring Derek Jacobi and Richard Coyle hitting the West End as recently as 2005. “Don Carlos” is a prime example of Schiller at work: passionate, witty, and brimming with revolutionary ideas about freedom and power.
Despite some cool aesthetics and apt use of lighting however, this version, produced by Tom Burke and Gadi Roll’s new theatre company Ara, is passionless, tedious, and incoherent. In terms of plot, ‘Don Carlos’ takes place around the beginning of the Eighty Years’ War when Dutch provinces began fighting to free themselves from the rule of Spain and its king, Phillip II. Prince Don Carlos’ former lover recently married his father, and his declarations of love for his new stepmother kick start various court schemes to dispose of prince on one side, and to rebel against the king on the other. How can freedom be won from tyranny, and who will be left to pick up the pieces?
Robert David MacDonald’s translation – first staged in 1995 – retains the lyricism and wit of the original at times, but in an effort to be ‘accurate’, unfurls absurdly long and convoluted sentences that feel foreign to this contemporary audience. If Roll had been able to perhaps adapt the text to his liking, he may have produced a more engaging and better flowing piece of theatre, allowing the vital themes to shine through without the 18th century linguistic baggage. Furthermore, the actors visibly struggle with this text. Scenes become shouting matches, the actors whipping out lines as fast as they can hoping to create pace and energy but instead just becoming unintelligible. In the verbal carnage, meaning and nuance is lost.
Although Rosanna Vize’s design, forcing light in actors faces up close and personal, neatly reflects the accusatorial and inquisitorial nature of the plot, the general direction and staging is confused and inconsistent. A dark stage with all actors dressed in black or navy makes the events seem timeless and contemporary but is a dull and monotonous visual choice. There is an obvious desire for pace, and yet scene changes are laborious and slow down the action – it’s a stripped back setting, so why so many chairs, tables, beds? Actors are often stood in parallel and remain there scene after scene. Roll’s sound design, an odd mix of sentimental strings and tension building drums, intrudes obtusely into conversation without any obvious purpose and becomes both distracting and another thing for the actors to shout over.
Burke and Roll have been ambitious, admirably seeking to create stylised drama that goes beyond “the naturalism of television and film”, but they still have much to learn to ensure style does not trample over substance. Be rougher with the classics and don’t allow acting to come second place to design. As a Germanophile, I found this very disappointing.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photography by The Other Richard
Rose Theatre Kingston until 17th November
Previously reviewed at this venue:
A LIE OF THE MIND
By Sam Shepard
4 – 28 May | Southwark Playhouse (The Large)
With their critically acclaimed production of Stephen Karam’s Speech & Debate running at the Trafalgar Studios, Defibrillator Artistic Director James Hillier today announces the full casting for their production of Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind. Joining the previously announced Gethin Anthony (Jake), Kate Fahy (Lorraine), Robert Lonsdale (Mike), Laura Rogers (Sally) and John Stahl (Baylor) are Nancy Crane (Meg), Alexandra Dowling (Beth) and Michael Fox (Frankie) in a new updated version by Sam Shepard as yet to be seen in the UK. The production opens at Southwark Playhouse on 8 May, with previews from 4 May, running until 28 May.
“Love… it’s a disease that makes ya’ feel good. While it lasts. Then, when it’s gone, yer worse off than before you caught it.”
America. The great wide open. Two families torn apart by more than one brutal marriage. Out of this bleak landscape emerges a human spirit that burns bright. At heart a love story, this poetic and gritty play explores the ambivalence of family relationships, of love lost and found, against the backdrop of a macho American West.
Defibrillator’s production will feature a soundtrack composed and performed live on stage by acclaimed musician James Marples, bringing a slice of rock n roll to one of the 20th Century’s most audacious American plays.
Sam Shepard (b 1942) is a playwright, actor, director and author. He has written over 45 plays (11 of which have won Obie Awards) including True Love, Fool for Love and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child, recently seen at Trafalgar Studios starring Ed Harris. He also wrote the screenplay for Wim Wender’s Paris, Texas for which he received a BAFTA nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Gethin Anthony plays Jake. Anthony previously worked with the company on The Hotel Plays – Green Eyes. Other theatre credits include In the Vale of Health and What Fatima Did (Hampstead Theatre), A life of Galileo and Boris Gondonuv (RSC), Carrot (Theatre503), 24 Hour Plays (The Old Vic), In Praise of Love (Theatre Royal Northampton), Ditch (HighTide), Cling to me like Ivy (Birmingham Rep) and Cyrano de Bergerac (Oxford Playhouse). For television his credits include Game of Thrones, Aquarius, ALT, Call the Midwife, Cloud Chamber, 10 Days to War and Pinochet’s Progress; and for film, First Kill, Kodachrome, We are Monster, Copenhagen, Dreck, Into the Storm, Beyond the Rave and Bus Terminal.
Nancy Crane plays Meg. For theatre her credits include The Sewing Group, The Strip, The Sweetest Thing in Baseball and Now or Later (Royal Court Theatre), Teddy Ferrara (Donmar Warehouse), Next Fall (Southwark Playhouse), Chimerica (Almeida Theatre), Design for Living (The Old Vic), Angels in America and Love The Sinner (National Theatre), The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl and Six Degrees of Separation (Sheffield Crucible). For television her credits include Genius, Upstairs, Downstairs, Cambridge Spies, Strike Force and Nixon’s the One; and for film, The Current War, Leavey, Florence Foster Jenkins, Woman in Gold, Batman: The Dark Knight, The Road to Guantanamo and The Fourth Protocol.
Alexandra Dowling plays Beth. For theatre her credits include While The Sun Shines (Theatre Royal Bath), I Have Been Here Before and The Last of the De Mullins (Jermyn Street Theatre). For television her credits include The Musketeers, Game of Thrones and Merlin; and for film, Starbright and Hammer of the Gods.
Kate Fahy plays Lorraine. For theatre her credits include Handbagged (UK tour), After Electra (Tricycle Theatre), Definitely the Bahamas (Orange Tree Theatre), The Goat (Almeida Theatre and Apollo Theatre), Copenhagen (Watford Palace Theatre), Grace, Gaucho and Sparrowfall (Hampstead Theatre), Seduced (Royal Court), Old Flames (Arts Theatre), A Doll’s House (Riverside Studios), Bouncing and Sunday Morning (National Theatre) and Othello (Young Vic). For television her credits include The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, Death in Paradise, Cherished, Pure Wickedness, The Best Man, The House of Elliott, The Jury, Trial and Retribution, The Mozart Inquest, Danton’s Death, Terra Nova, Oxbridge Blues, The Lodger and The Nearly Man; and for film, Archipelago, Defiance, Brilliance, The Show, The Living and The Dead, The Fourth Angel, Somewhere Sometime.
Michael Fox plays Frankie. For theatre his credits include An Enemy of the People (Chichester Festival Theatre), As You Like it (Transport Theatre), Leaves of Glass (Alma Tavern) and Edmund Kean (Watford Palace Theatre). For television his credits include Endeavour, Downton Abbey, Marvellous, The Ark, New Worlds, Little Big Mouth, Family Affairs, Mrs Bradley Mysteries; and for film, Dunkirk and Good People.
Robert Lonsdale plays Mike. For theatre his credits include Plaques and Tangles, Open Court: Piigs and Brilliant Adventures (Royal Court), Another Place (Plymouth Theatre Royal), From Here to Eternity (Shaftesbury Theatre), A Life (Finborough Theatre), Anna Christie (Donmar Warehouse), Finding Neverland (Curve, Leicester), La Bete (Harold Pinter Theatre) and The Indian Wants the Bronx (Young Vic). For television his credits include Vera, Chewing Gum, Love Sick, The Interceptor, Lost Christmas, A Passionate Woman, Plus One and Decisions; and for film, The Glass House.
Laura Rogers plays Sally. For theatre her credits include Winter Solstice (Orange Tree Theatre), Private Lives (UK tour), Tipping The Velvet and Arcadia (Lyric Hammersmith), An Ideal Husband, Blue Remembered Hills, Hay Fever and Pressure (Chichester Festival Theatre), Masterpieces (Royal Court), 55 Days and Revelations (Hampstead Theatre), The Comedy of Errors (USA tour and Shakespeare’s Globe), Macbeth, A New World – The Life of Thomas Paine, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Timon of Athens, The Taming of the Shrew and Richard III (Shakespeare’s Globe), The 39 Steps (Criterion Theatre), See How They Run (Royal Exchange, Manchester) and The Three Musketeers and The Barber of Seville (Bristol Old Vic). For television her credits include New Tricks, The Smoke, Dates, Twelfth Night, Dark Matters, Doctor Who Christmas Special, Missing, Albert’s Memorial, Rock Face, Running Scared, Relic Hunter, Pleasure Beach and The Sins; and for film, Love Me Do, The Right Hand Man, Nylon Ghosts and In Two Minds.
John Stahl plays Baylor. For theatre his credits include The Winter’s Tale (Lyceum Theatre), Father Comes Home From the War (Royal Court), The Crucible and Ghosts (Bristol Old Vic), Hamlet, All’s Well That Ends Well, As You Like It, King John, Richard III and A Soldier in Every Son (RSC), Troilus & Cressida, The Frontline, We, The People, Othello, Much Ado About Nothing and The Globe Mysteries (Shakespeare’s Globe), Frankenstein (National Theatre), The Whisky Taster (The Bush Theatre), The Alice Trilogy (Royal Court Theatre), Blue Eyes and Heels (Soho Theatre), The Found Man (Traverse Theatre). For television his credits include Game of Thrones, Being Human, Beehive, Murder Rooms, Glasgow Kiss, Rebus – The First Stone, Shetland 3, Dr Finlay, Resort to Murder, Crime Story, Life of Jolly; and film, Victoria and Abdul and Loch Ness.
3 – 27 May
7:30pm Monday – Saturday
3pm matinees on Tuesdays and Saturdays
77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD
020 7407 0234
Standard £20 | Concessions £16 | Previews £12