A Deed Without a Name
Reviewed – 21st February
“there’s enough hard-working ambition to raise this above merely being an interesting exercise”
Dark, satirical political comedy with a liberal peppering of the absurd ensures a bizarre but entertaining evening at Theatro Technis in Camden.
The spy thriller “A Deed Without a Name” (“Bezimienne dzieło” – also known as “Nameless Work” or “Anonymous Work: Four Acts of a Rather Nasty Nightmare”) was written in 1921 but not published until 1962 and only first performed in 1967.
This fascinating work by the Polish avant garde writer, artist, philosopher and theorist Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz is rarely seen so applause is due to the newly-formed Wayward Theatre Productions, who specialise in staging productions of European drama little-known to British audiences.
You might not expect to find a large-scale political and social piece about spies, a working class rebellion against authority, a strange religious cult, artists and family revelations played out in a former church hall in Camden but this is what the extremely capable company pulls off.
There is so much back-stabbing, betrayal and self interest in the play, which also has an authentic common touch, that it could be a cross between “Game of Thrones” and “EastEnders” set against popular revolution.
In truth, not every nail is hit firmly on the head and some of what is going on can be hard to follow but there’s enough hard-working ambition to raise this above merely being an interesting exercise. Several of the cast do not have English as their first language, so there is a colourful cosmopolitan presence throughout in the ensemble performance.
Georgio Galassi, who was inspired casting as Holmes in last year’s “Hound of the Baskervilles” in Abney Park, has brought several of that company with him not only to direct but also as co-translator of the play and starring as the hero Plamonick Blodestaug, the consumptive painter losing his artistic touch and suspected of spying. Galassi never loses sight of the protagonist’s tragic despair as politics and the new order suffocate art and create a world in which he can neither live nor love.
The other translator is Polish-American actress Dorota Krimmel, who has enormous fun as the composer Rosa Van Der Blaast, the hero’s sweetheart, whose affections lie elsewhere, while Sarah J Warren is the bright young painter trying to bring colour to a grey society.
Reed Stokes is both dashing and disagreeable as the Baron who pretends to support a secret religious society in order to overthrow the tyrannical ruling class, though who in reality has more personal ambitions at heart. Gary Cain is suitably weasly as the officer who unwisely pitches in with whoever he feels may be on the winning side.
The production is particularly successful in showing the struggles between the classes and the strata of different ideologies, backgrounds and cultures. Thus Peter Revel-Walsh as a bluff first gravedigger and Jonathan Brandt as the second gravedigger Girtak make the most of their revolutionary down to earth subversive characters who want to bury the old system. Brandt’s sneering underground poet is a chilling example of one who storms to the top on the wave of fresh ideologies, no better than the predecessors they have toppled.
Dan de la Motte’s bored Prince Padoval is gloriously effete, never truly finding purpose until he dons the black hat of the revolutionaries, discovering another pointless direction to travel, while Gerry Skeens maintains a shocked regal dignity as the Princess.
The set (Aurelie Freoua) is a fabulous and colourful artistic mess, with paintings, sheets of verse, violins and materials strewn across the playing area, a symbol of the way of life being rejected.
Hats off to this bright and personable new company for daring to shun the tried and tested in favour of this unlikely romantic action drama from a pioneering Polish commentator who led the way in rewriting theatrical norms and expectations which might otherwise have been overlooked or ignored in this country at this time.
Reviewed by David Guest
A Deed Without a Name
Theatro Technis until 2nd March
Last ten shows reviewed by David: