by Friedrich von Schiller new version y Daniel Millar and MarkLeipacher.
Southwark Playhouse Shipwright’s Yard, corner of Tooley Street/Bermondsey Street SE1 2TF To 7 August 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm
Post-show discussion 28 July.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 July.
Rare chance to see an intriguing play sympathetically presented.
When Schiller’s seen today it tends to be the grand historical dramas, Mary Stuart, Don Carlos and the occasional Wallenstein. This 1784 play, Kabale und Liebe (better known as the opera Verdi named from its young heroine, Luisa Miller) is a contemporary domestic drama, with several aspects of classical comedy, but where the forces of corruption and power gradually overwhelm impulsive young love.
When the young noble Ferdinand falls for Louisa, daughter of a violin teacher (who’d never hold a violin as does Daniel Millar in the opening scene), his Chancellor father uses force and threats to separate them; then, more successfully, follows secretary – and suitor for Louisa – Worm’s cunning plan, forcing the young woman to write a love-letter to someone else and watching as infuriated young Ferdinand does the rest. And more than had been planned.
Mark Leipacher’s production has a Cheek by Jowl look, making swift scenic transitions on a patterned floor that can become any location, with a row of eight chairs where the characters initially sit in order, and which become disorganised as passions erupt. After the interval the chairs are piled-up, characters on and around them reading multiple copies of Louisa’s faked letter, its words repeatedly heard as a voiceover.
Acting may show technical limitations, even in this economical, pungent and occasionally humorous new translation. Alice Henley has all Louisa’s innocence and a fair amount of her honest resilience, if not giving a full sense of her understanding of the dilemmas. It is the most complex role, and handled more than well enough, while Kate Sawyer gives the English Lady Milford – who’s somewhat better than she seems – appropriate moral purpose.
No wonder she finally wipes the make-up off her face; Leipacher uses it as a signal of evil, with white-faced males doing the intriguing. Such as Gareth Fordred’s Worm, voice poisonously deep, body hunched toad-like behind Louisa as he dictates the letter to her – an impressive performance in an impressive production that sharpens the appetite for the next instalment of The Faction Theatre Company’s project to present all Schiller’s plays in new translations.
Calf: Richard Delaney.
Chancellor: Steven Blake.
Ferdinand: Cerith Flinn.
Lady Milford: Kate Sawyer.
Worm: Gareth Fordred.
Louisa: Alice Henley.
Mrs Miller: Derval Mellet.
Mr Miller: Danny Millar.
Director: Mark Leipacher.
Designer: Oliver Townsend.
Lighting: Matthew Graham.
Music: Tom Whitelaw.
Violinist: Laura Raggatt.
Costume: Charlotte Smith.