FROM MORNING TO MIDNIGHT
by George Kaiser new version by Dennis Kelly from a literal translation by Simon Scardifield.
Lyttelton Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 26 January 2014.
Runs: 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 7 December.
Brilliant physicality in bold Expressionist work.
German Expressionism is not a form the English appear to understand or are often invited to `enjoy’. Even Melly Still’s thrillingly ambitious, wonderfully concrete production apparently prompted several patrons not to return after the interval.
A shame; though the style may be disorientating – consciously so – George Kaiser’s sprawling 1912 epic about a bank clerk who rebels, absconds with his bank’s money in order to free his soul and in one day destroys himself searching for an experience that will give meaning to his life, resonates across the century. In Dennis Kelly’s new adaptation, the obsession with money against which he rails also couldn’t be more relevant.
So why would the aesthetic out of which Kaiser and others – Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, Ernst Toller – grew seem so troubling now? Perhaps film and TV realism now exerts such a stranglehold that anything stylised is received as strange and alien.
Still, with typical theatrical verve, makes it as accessible as possible with a rich panoply of grotesques and perspective-changing effects, from giant ticking clocks, precariously angled scenery to highly physicalised movement suggesting human beings reduced to cogs in a wheel, domestically, at play – with a clever, simulated bike race – or at work. As the piece opens, Adam Godley (mesmerising as the Clerk), closeted behind his grille, performs a series of rapid, repetitive gestures emblematic of work environments’ capacity to dehumanise.
Kaiser’s vision however isn’t limited to attacking modern modes of dehumanisation but, like Luigi Pirandello, seeks to unmask social veneers, strike out against bourgeois conformity and dethrone the mystique of money as the gateway to freedom and happiness.
In a series of Brechtian-style scenes, Godley’s Clerk explores public sport (a galvanisingly sharp analysis of the herd mentality let loose), art (modernist dance and Schoenberg-type music), sex and finally, piercingly, religion.
In a Salvation Army scene reminiscent of Guys and Dolls, the Clerk’s confession appears imminent – only for him, in a crackling display of hell let loose, to be electrocuted on a cross – as powerful a symbol of the `little man’ as victim as Georg Buchner’s Woyzeck, 75 years earlier. Exhilarating stuff.
Clerk: Adam Godley.
Steward/Harlequin/Penitent Cyclist: Esh Alladi
Italian Lady/Salvation Army Officer: Gina Bellman.
Trapper/Cyclist/Adam: Christian From.
Son/Cyclist/Guitarist: Robert Gilbert.
Cyclist/Girl Soldier: Kezrena James.
Mother/Eve: Éva Magyar.
Salvation Army Girl: Katherine Manners.
Bank Manager/Society Gent/Wedekind: Dan Milne.
Cyclist/Mask/Young Soldier: Zackary Momoh.
Daughter/Cyclist/Harlequin: Victoria Moseley.
Assistant/Daughter/Cyclist/Mask: Emily Mytton.
Porter/Society Gent: Jack Tarlton.
Fat Man/Steward/Waiter: Jason Thorpe.
Bosomy Bourgeois/Pierrette/Prostitute: Emily Wachter.
Serving Girl/Wife/Cyclist: Kelly Williams.
Director: Melly Still.
Designer: Soutra Gilmour.
Lighting: Bruno Poet.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Music: Dave Price.
Video/Projections: Andrzej Goulding.
Movement director: Al Nedjari.
Physical Comedy Consultant: Jason Thorpe.
Company Voice Work: Jeannette Nelson.
Animator: Colin Blake.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
This production of From Morning to Midnight opened in the Lyttelton Theatre, London 26 November 2013.