by Roland Schimmelpfennig translated by David Tushingham.
Gate Theatre above The Prince Albert Pub 11 Pembridge Road W11 3HQ To 19 July 2014.
On-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & 9 July 3pm.
Runs 1hr 5min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7229 0706.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 June.
Strange estrangement gives focus to classical adventure.
Productions can be quite hard to get in to, but rarely like Ellen McDougall’s Gate show. Set in the aftermath of the Trojan War Roland Schimmelpfennig’s play follows not, as usual, Ulysses, but the king of Crete as he tries reaching his island home.
Mozart treated this operatically, but Schimmelpfennig replaces action-related recitative and emotion-exploring aria with an abstract chorus of voices, speaking sometimes individually, sometimes in small groups. The way his verse-like script splits lines between, for example, ‘The Woman’, ‘Two Men’, ’Six People Who Don’t Understand’ isn’t always apparent.
There again, the writer’s suggested cast of ‘between ten and fourteen men and women. Possibly more’ becomes a more practical five here. They tell the story (Homer-like) rather than speaking as characters. Everything, including ‘Searing heat’, is described as in poem or novel, accompanied by physical action when appropriate.
Even moments when the script breaks into a first-person account leave no doubt, in their manner of delivery that this is, echt-Brecht, an actor describing someone else’s situation, the words those of the reporter rather than necessarily the person being reported.
It creates a strangely detached atmosphere for a story of life disrupted from expectations, not by long absence at a war, but by a fleet being smashed as Idomeneus sees Crete, a disloyal wife, and a bargain for reaching shore that leads to the sacrifice of his child.
Such sudden disorientations create a sense of the world made Absurd, without familiarity, justice or logic. It’s an experience intensified for audiences, who are given no emotional attachment, both by the traverse seating, which in this space makes the stage a major gap between two banks of spectators, and by the means of entry – another aspect of the hard to get into, as ticket-holders clamber through a hole in the wall to reach the auditorium
The happy, modern-dressed players indulge in words and actions as if their characters (whoever they are) know that, for them, the Cretan experience will end with a shower and change of clothes back at the hotel before bedtime. Such is the fate of great adventures.
Cast: Alex Austin, Jon Foster, Mark Monero, Susie Trayling, Ony Uhiara.
Director: Ellen McDougall.
Designer: Ana Ines Jabares Pita.
Lighting: Lizzie Powell.
Sound/Composer: Jon Nicholls.
Movement: Joe Wild.
Dramaturg: Clare Slater.
Assistant director: Anastasia Osei-Kuffour.