THE KING STAG
by Carlo Gozzi. Translated by Albert Bermel
Barbican Theatre To 2 September
Runs 1hr 30 mins No interval
TICKETS 020 7638 8891
Review Timothy Ramsden 16 August 2001
The eyes have the best of it in American Italian comedy.
In four years BITE (Barbican International Theatre Event) has established itself as the major international theatre season in Britain. Directors Graham Sheffield and Louise Jeffreys have presented major productions and valuable offbeat work, showing almost impeccable judgment.
Almost. Young people’s work has been the least convincing part of their seasons and it’s hard to know to whom this ‘family’ show can be recommended.
The American Repertory Theatre was founded by Robert Brustein, coruscating critic of such mid-century U.S. giants as Miller and Tennessee Williams, and for a year in the early ’70s of British theatre. In setting up this Harvard-based company Brustein threw his values into the ring. But does this represent his answer to American theatre’s shortcomings?While Carlo Goldoni was wooing 18th century Italians with comedies about women innkeepers and servants with two many masters, the rival Carlo was offering magical, oriental tales of such silliness they have survived mainly as opera plots: Puccini’s Turandot and Prokofiev’s Love of Three Oranges.
This play’s based on the idea of peoples’ minds entering via a magic spell into a dead body. King Deramo is tricked into entering a dead stag’s carcase by his evil Prime Minister, who then takes on the king’s form. There’s linked fun with various women would-be suitors to the king.
Andrei Serban is credited as director, but it’s hard to know what he did as the production’s successes are the visual spectacles created by Julie Taymor. Giant marionette creatures, a forest of shadow puppets that leap into elongation, the colourful costumes against a largely white set, make this a visual banquet. Otherwise, the acting’s competent going on adequate, the storytelling too often unclear and the attempts at humour embarrassing.
Too confusing for younger children, too naÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¯ve for the older, the show’s at best a limited success.