by Frank Wedekind adapted by Anna Ledwich.
Gate Theatre above The Prince Albert Pub 11 Pembridge Road W11 3HQ To 10 July 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7229 0706.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 June.
Sex as a dead-end in a devastatingly alluring new version.
It’s a sexy, sensual summer for Headlong Theatre, though compared with their Oscar Wilde at Hampstead, this Notting Hill conflation by director Anna Ledwich of Frank Wedekind’s two-play assault on sexual repression in respectable-seeming German society a century or so ago, is almost wholesome family entertainment.
But not by other standards. Part of the Gate/Headlong ‘New Directions’ programme to reinvent classic drama, Ledwich has cropped Wedekind’s class gradations and circus metaphors. Updating also means changing Lulu’s eventual fate, which abandoned her to Jack-the-Ripper. Prostitution is what came naturally to Lulu when male wealth and support were no longer available; with grisly tact in staging, the dangers of sex-working remain evident.
Sinead Matthews is aptly first seen being rehearsed dancing to Marilyn Monroe’s singing, the star’s sexual vibrancy contrasted by her childlike vocal innocence. Marilyn – who, of course, wasn’t ‘Marilyn’ – was a creation of male desire for male purposes. So is Lulu, happily acquiring a new name for each partner, painted early on in a posture both unnatural and uncomfortable, however sexually forceful.
Later her body forms into desirable shapes automatically, in response to what she perceives is wanted, or for sheer pleasure. She can appear like a child – her first sexual game involves an ice-cream cone, and her younger self later sits innocently sucking an ice-cream as the adult Lulu faces increasing threats. Elsewhere her talk forms a frustrating loop, ever-offering, never providing satisfaction to men, eating asparagus with sexually-loaded comments rather than having sex.
Matthews’ lithe, petite and blonde physicality is invested with a strong voice that can assert and show annoyance as well as contribute to her image of woman as child-ideal – Goethe’s ‘Eternal Feminine’ drawing men (and the lesbian Geschwitz) on, reduced to hormonal lust, her ideal image a painting locked-up to be seen voyeuristically through a peephole.
Among the cast around Matthews, Sean Campion uses restraint to suggest the explosive feelings within Lulu/Mignon’s ‘protector’ and a serial-killer’s repressed disgust. Helen Goddard’s set gradually opens up, revealing the suggestions of bondage around a masterfully male chair, just as the secret compartments of Lulu’s life are increasingly revealed.
Schoning: Sean Campion.
Schwartz: Michael Colgan.
Dr Goll/Schigolch: Paul Copley.
Countess Geschwitz: Helena Easton.
Alwa: Jack Gordon.
Lulu: Sinead Matthews.
Young Lulu: Greer Dale-Foulkes/Tessa Sowery.
Director: Anna Ledwich.
Designer: Helen Goddard.
Lighting: Emma Chapman.
Sound: Carolyn Downing.
Music: Alex Silverman.
Movement: Georgina Lamb.
Assistant director: Luisa Hinchliff.