BIG AND SMALL
by Botho Strauss English version by Martin Crimp.
Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 29 April 2012.
Tue-Sat 7.15pm Sun 4pm Mat Thu & Sat 1.30pm.
Audio-described 25 April.
BSL Signed 26 April 7.15pm.
Captioned: 24 April.
Post-show Discussion 18 April.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 243 0785.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 April.
Big play and performance illuminate small lives today.
In a hotel dining-room, doctor’s waiting-room, various apartments or bus queue there are chances to meet people, or to have the sense of being alone amplified. At the centre of Botho Strauss’s 1978 ‘scenes’, Lotte moves between various forms of personal ‘statelessness’ explicable to audiences from his native Germany, a comparatively recent country anyway, which, during the lifetime of the playwright and most of his original audience, had been divided into Russian-dominated East and capitalist West, a separation physically emphasised by the wall built overnight in 1961 through Berlin.
With Nazi rule still within living memory for many, yet a world moving on, the chance of a personal anomie that might not consciously identify its origin in politics was considerable.
At first, sitting in what could be a ledge by a giant window, Lotte at least tries to identify the names of people talking nearby, as figures in black are vaguely seen moving behind curtains. By the end, as isolated individuals are called to see their doctor, she’s left alone. She has made no appointment and claims to be all right. The only advice she’s given is to leave.
She does, like a latter-day anonymous Chaplin or cowboy, fading into darkness rather than poetic sunset.
Both Cate Blanchett’s performance as Lotte, and Benedict Andrews’ production for Sydney Theatre Company use physical humour to create a sense of strangeness and separation. At first it’s through Lotte’s active attempts to connect by overhearing, or by asking about an unknown woman’s clothing while peering through her window.
A subsequent search through apartments in a series of short scenes leads to appalled withdrawal, when even a tent seems to go on the attack. As she visits family or strikes up a conversation at a bus-stop, Blanchett’s Lotte erupts in manic movement and seemingly-uncontrolled spasms of talk.
It’s very funny at the same time as it’s logically inexplicable and a signal of someone breaking apart. That’s been the case from the start with the tall fragmented set pieces of designer Johannes Schütz – huge, bland and isolated by darkness around, they set mood even more than scene in Andrews’ aptly-acted production.
Lotte: Cate Blanchett.
Old Woman: Lynette Curran.
Inge/Karin: Anita Hegh.
Woman/Meggy/Tent: Belinda McClory.
Guitar Player/Boy: Josh McConville.
Paul/Man with Shirts/Doctor: Robert Menzies.
Fat Woman: Katrina Milosevic.
Turkish Man: Yalin Ozucelik.
Wilhelm: Richard Piper.
Alf/Jurgen: Richard Pyros.
Girl/Josefina: Sophie Ross.
Young Man/Albert/Man in Parka: Chris Ryan.
Man/Bernd: Christopher Stollery.
Old Man: Martin Vaughan.
Director: Benedict Andrews.
Designer: Johannes Schütz.
Lighting: Nick Schlieper.
Sound/Composer: Max Lyandvert.
Voice/Text coach: Charmian Gradwell.
Tour directors: Andrew Upton, Tom Wright.
Assistant director: Kip Williams.
Assistant designer: Ben Clark.