by Arthur Schnitzler adapted by David Harrower.

Young Vic 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ To 10 April.
Mon-Sat 7:30pm Mat Sat & 31 March, 7 April 2pm.
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.

then tour (England) to 1 May 2010.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
Review: Carole Woddis 5 March.

The young go to waste; their elders show the way.
The last time Luc Bondy was in England, in 2004, he gave us Cruel and Tender, a powerful rendering of Sophocles’ tragedy Trachiniae.

In the intervening years, we’ve had a number of stories of dangerous youth from Simon Stephens’ Punk Rock to Ferdinand Bruckner’s Pains of Youth.

Bondy, regarded as one of the giants of European theatre, now returns with Sweet Nothings, David Harrower’s version of Arthur Schnitzler’s tale of innocence betrayed, Liebelei – a theme very much in the land of Pains of Youth if set some thirty years earlier, in fin de siècle Vienna.

Bondy, in a remarkable pink and grey luminous semi-circular setting by Karl-Ernst Herrmann that groups the audience as though at a `corrida’, mixes his time frames making it both modernist and only slightly historical. The effect, with Harrower’s colloquially contemporary translation, is to make the piece self-consciously relevant to young people today, not always beneficially.

Gone, in the first half, is much sense of period and the Austro-Hungarian militarism that made it. Miraculously, though, thanks to performances from the two most experienced players, the play’s climax still delivers a terrific punch.

Bondy’s production is thus very much a play of two halves. In the first half, a quartet of young things flirt and get drunk with heedless abandon. So far so predictable, hedonism and nihilism clashing against each other with only a hint of foreboding of what is to come.

But then enter Hayley Carmichael as a friend of the family and emblem of conventional Viennese society, and David Sibley as Weiring, the old musician father of Christine, the most innocent and loving of the quartet and deeply in love with the young lieutenant, Fritz who will ultimately be killed in a duel. Together, Carmichael and Sibley’s performances give the story weight and context.

If Bondy’s handling of the early scenes is strangely one-dimensional there is no denying the force of his ultimate vision. The ending is terrifying with Christine grappled to the ground by `friends’ and father alike as she tries to reach the graveyard of her lover. Betrayal all round.

Christine: Kate Burdette.
Katharina: Hayley Carmichael.
Mizi: Natalie Dormer.
Fritz: Tom Hughes.
Theodore: Jack Laskey.
Weiring: David Sibley.
Gentleman: Andrew Wincott.

Director: Luc Bondy.
Designer/Lighting: Karl-Ernst Herrmann.
Sound: Gareth Fry.
Costume: Moidele Bickel.
Hair and Makeup: Campbell Young.
Dramaturg: Geoffrey Layton.
Assistant designer: Barbara Pral.
Associate costumer: Eva Dessecker.

Sweet Nothings also plays at the Wiener Festwochen, Vestlandhalle Ruhrfestpiele Recklinghausen and the Teatros del Canal Madrid.

2010-03-10 00:44:18

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