THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI
by Dudley Hinton and Sebastian Armesto with simple8.
Arcola Theatre (Arcola 2) 24 Ashwin Street E8 3DL To 16 March.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 25min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 February.
Minimal means make maximum impact.
It was a triumph of silent cinema; in 1920 director Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr Calgari presented an Expressionist world of fake scenery with distorted perspectives and angles, matched by exaggerated acting (even for the silent era). But, for all the excitement and invention, it’s ultimately a betrayal of its own style (possibly the consequence of the producers wanting a softened conclusion). Finally, when the element of insanity is exposed, the film shifts to realistic settings and characters, as if Expressionism were an expression of madness only.
Devising this new theatre piece with simple8 theatre company, Dudley Hinton and Sebastian Armesto do away with the obvious fakery of theatre which Wiene adapted for the screen. And with a lot of the plot details, though they keep the fair where the foreigner Dr Caligari exhibits his sleepwalker Cesare with his powers of prophecy, alongside the murders which fuel the tension.
Shadows and dreams are key words in this adaptation. Cesare lives amid dreams, repeatedly anaesthetised by Caligari, and young clerk Franzis dreams of the beautiful Jane, smilingly kind towards him but several echelons above his reach.
Joseph Kloska has a near-Expressionist intensity to his features; the put-upon little man who harbours unregarded intensities of feeling. And he holds a sympathy, not shared by Jane’s suave, self-confident fiancé Otto, enjoying humiliating his would-be rival.
There are contrasts of day and night, social and personal, exterior and interior. Civic society’s represented as cast members create the town-clock; David Brett’s Olsen sits in municipal command at a desk. In contrast, elsewhere, shadows, and beams of light play upon the several murders, before revealing the killer, and providing a stronger motive for the final crime than the filmscript.
All this on a near-bare stage, where the tightness and economy of production justifies the simple shadowplay, that might elsewhere seem amateurish. And the element that disturbs routine life – the arrival of Fair people, not only Caligari and Cesare but the parades, jaunty music plus the fairground excitement so unlike normal small-town life – recur memorably throughout. Wiene’s Caligari triumphed in 1920; simple8’s does so today.
Dr Caligari: Oliver Birch.
Olsen/Roland: David Brett.
Hermann/Cesare: Christopher Doyle.
Elsie/Fruhoff: Hannah Emanuel.
Franzis: Joseph Kloska.
Jane: Sophie Roberts.
Rosier/Strongman/Jailer: Mat Wandless.
Hirst/Otto/Prisoner: Sargon Yelda.
Directors: Sebastian Armesto, Dudley Hinton.
Designers: Simon Allison, Sebastian Armesto.
Lighting: Sherry Coenen.
Music: David Brett, Hannah Emanuel.
Voice/Dialect: Richard Ryder.