by Simon Stephens based on Kasimir and Karoline by Ödön von Horváth.
HOME (Theatre 1) 2 Tony Wilson Place First Street M15 4FN To 13 June 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 0161 200 1500.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 May.
Funfairs are rarely less fun as this one drives Home from thirties Germany.
When Austrian playwright Ödön von Horváth penned a play called Tales from the Vienna Wood, audiences could be sure the Strauss Waltz that provided the title would not also lend its elegantly lilting atmosphere. And when von Horváth, as here, sets a play in a funfair it’s certain there won’t be much fun to be apportioned, fairly or otherwise, between a sizeable number of characters.
This was the immediately pre-Nazi time in Germanic lands, where problems – as in the modern UK – were economic. Unemployment sours the relationship between young Karoline, still in work and optimistic, and her boyfriend Kasimir – whom Simon Stephens’ version rebrands aptly as Cash – newly unemployed. But his overbearing manner, roused by jealously of any man she looks at – especially timid, but still in-work John Chase – overshadows her life.
It pushes him, too, towards Frankie Marr, a violent bully whose girlfriend Esther makes several fruitless protests at his manner towards her, and whose car-thefts attract Cash as a way of making the money needed for self-respect and such simple joys of the funfair as an ice-cream. So strong are the parallels between the original’s 1932 Oktoberfest and Stephens’ modern Manchester setting, it’s easy to think the play is a more radical rewrite than is the likely case.
Two predatory businessmen, old and fattened on profits, fit less easily in the modern setting – they’re figures from the age of caricaturist George Grosz and early Soviet satire of the filthy rich, performed, amid an earnestly capable cast, by Ian Bartholomew and Christopher Wright in the slow, stylised style characteristic of Walter Meierjohann’s production overall.
Life is slowed-down, energy-drained and joyless, while music and colouring add grotesque elements – as in the freak-show display – to designer Ti Green’s overall depressing urban setting.
Meierjohann’s production inaugurates a season that reflects an abrasive and disassociated venture, aptly homed in a new building that’s close to the city centre, yet in its own precinct a railway arch away from mainstream bustle. It’s a change that, judged by this opening, is likely to be bracing and challenging and unafraid to confront contemporary life’s rough edges.
Billy Smoke: Ian Bartholomew.
Cash: Ben Batt.
Maria: Kate Dobson.
Esther: Victoria Gee.
Elli: Sally Hodgkiss.
Ringmaster/Nurse: Chris Jack.
Narrator/Tiny: James Lusted.
John Chase: Rhodri Meilir.
Caroline: Katie Moore.
Frankie Marr: Michael Ryan.
David Speir: Christopher Wright.
Community Ensemble: Laura Betts, Elliot Brown, Marcus Christopherson, Danielle Dawson, Emma Fernell, Lucy Hird, Jade Marvin, Molly McGlynn, Evelyn Roberts, Eleanor Snowdon.
Juanita/Musician: Cici Howells.
Little Joseph/Musician: Max Runham.
Musician: Barbara Hockaday.
Director: Walter Meierjohann.
Designer: Ti Green.
Lighting: Mike Gunning.
Sound: Peter Rice.
Video: Louis Price.
Dramaturg: Petra-Jane Tauscher.
Assistant director: George Want.