THE CAPTAIN OF KÖPENICK
by Carl Zuckmayer new English version by Ron Hutchinson from a literal translation by Simon Scardifield.
Olivier Theatre Upper Ground SE1 9PX In rep to 4 April 2013.
7.30 12-16 Feb, 1, 2l 4-6, 12-14, 21-23, 25 Mar, 2-4 Apr.
2pm 13, 16 Feb, 2, 3, 6, 13, 23 Mar, 3 Apr.
2.30pm 3, 24 Mar.
Audio-described 22 Mar, 23 Mar 2pm (+Touch Tour 12.30pm).
Captioned Apr 3, 7.30pm.
Runs: 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 6 February.
Too big for its jackboots.
There’s a whiff of xenophobia about Adrian Noble’s revival of Carl Zuckmayer’s The Captain of Köpenick. Towards the end, Ron Hutchinson’s juicily colloquial new translation pushes home Zuckmayer’s satire on his Prussian homeland and its love of military uniform with lines like `what other country would react to uniform?’ whilst the cast, dressed in Prussian splendour adopt goose-stepping. A general says, `they’ll follow where we lead them.’ Finally, a headless uniform dances before the cast.
The Captain of Köpenick was written in 1930. The Nazis had already gained over 18% of the recent vote. So the political underscoring is entirely understandable, yet makes an English audience feel rather smug. That couldn’t possibly happen here, could it?
Noble’s production is a vast if unwieldy affair. Designer Anthony Ward’s neo-Expressionist cityscapes tower high into the Olivier flies. The revolve turns frequently, to the extent you begin to fear for the safety of a 30-strong cast walking a fine line between the front of the stage and the dark void immediately behind them.
At the forefront, Antony Sher, following Paul Scofield in a famous 1971 National Theatre version, plays Wilhelm Voigt (based on a real character), the ex-con who, posing as a German captain finds society surrendering before him, as a cross between a Woyzeck `everyman’, Captain Mainwaring from Dad’s Army, with even a touch of Fiddler on the Roof’s Tevye.
Noble tries to find a cartoonish, pop-up style to match Zuckmayer’s intent that the play be a German fairy-tale. It doesn’t always succeed. German Expressionism doesn’t come easily to the English. And Zuckmayer’s convoluted plotting resists complete surrender to his world.
The production works best as a mad, Kafkaesque attack on the idiocies of bureaucracy. Voigt finds himself running against the buffers of officialdom and a catch-22 familiar to many caught on the wheels of today’s obsession with documentation. Without which you don’t exist. Even with documents you can be wrongly tagged.
Bursting all over in blue and scarlet full dress kit, swords and helmets, it’s a handsome, if over-stuffed production. A sleeker approach in a smaller venue might have worked wonders.
Wilhelm Voigt: Antony Sher.
Prisoner 1/Zeck: Colin Haigh.
Prisoner 2: Peter Howe.
Paul Kallenberg: Robert Demeger.
Prison DoctorObermuller’s Secretary: Nick Malinowski.
Prisoner 3/Buttie/Uniformed Cop: Joseph Wilkins.
Prisoner 4/Gebweiler: Jonathan Dryden Taylor.
Sissi: Olivia Poulet.
Wormser/Liebenwald: David Killick.
Mayor Obermuller of Köpernick: Anthony O’Donnell.
Willy/Killian: Paul Chequer.
Wabschke: Adrian Schiller.
Desk Sergeant/General von Kessler: James Hayes.
Overseer of the hostel/Colonel von Schleinitz: Paul Bentall.
Hollhuber: Neil Ditt.
Birgit: Siobhán McSweeney.
Marie Hoprecht: Robin Weaver.
Otti Hoprecht: Barnaby Kay.
Anna: Iris Roberts.
Auguste Wormser: Lynne Wilmot.
Krakauer: Anthony O’Donnell.
Sergeant Conrad: Sandy Batchelor.
Herr Schmidt/Minister of the Interior: Nick Sampson.
Köpenickers: Lynne Wilmot, Colin Haigh, Iris Roberts, Jonathan Dryden-Taylor, Robin Weaver.
Bickersdorff: Alan David.
Sculptress: Kaisa Hammarlund.
Police Commissioner: Jason Cheater.
Police photographer: Damian Davis.
Director: Adrian Noble.
Designer: Anthony Ward.
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Sound: Mic Pool.
Digital Art: Emma Pile, Daniel Radley-Bennett.
Music: Steven Edis.
Movement: Sue Lefton.
Company Voice Work: Jeanette Nelsonm Richard Ryder.
Fight director: Malcolm Ranson.
Associate lighting: Rob Halliday.
This production of The Captain of Köpenick opened in the Olivier Theatre, London, 5 February 2013.