by Friedrich von Schiller in a version by Daniel Millar and Mark Leipacher.
7.30pm 1, 4, 7, 11, 13, 20, 21, 22 Feb Mat 1 Feb 11am, 8, 15 Feb 3pm.
Captioned 11 Feb.
TICKETS: 020 7383 9034.
then Greenwich Theatre Crooms Hill SE10 8ES.
25, 27 Feb, 1 March 2014 7.30pm.
TICKETS: 020 8858 7755.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 31 January.
Rough minimalism in staging leaves space for the play’s wild chaos..
If Friedrich Schiller had visited London in 1777 he might have seen the premiere of Richard Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, where the Surface brothers – Joseph, obliging in manner but selfish in conduct, and Charles, dissolute but good-hearted – would have provided a model for the sons of Max Von Moor in The Robbers, published four years later.
Franz lives in his father’s castle, spreads lies to cause trouble and eventually seeks to starve old Max in the old man’s own prison cell. Karl, one victim of his brother’s scheming, has joined a free-roaming robber-band before coming home and finding his way to revenge.
It is, of course, a tragic rather than comic story – though it shares, too, with School a scene where the wayward son shows his family loyalty through a portrait of his father. Schiller’s play also suggests the popularity of Shakespeare in 18th-century Germany, in particular Richard III, given Franz’s physical deformity, soured mind and attempts to pursue Karl’s beloved Amalia.
Additionally, it recalls, though hardly as an influence, the Sweeney Todd created by playwright Christopher Bond, for Karl, like Sweeney, becomes demented and turns on society for the injustices he suffers, building an angry nihilism that glories in causing multiple deaths. No wonder first-time playwright Schiller came out of the emotional Sturm und Drang movement in German literature.
Mark Leipacher, directing the translation he made with Daniel Millar, leaves the stage bare, apart from a raised area to one side that does as rampart, table or prison. Things aren’t written in the wind, but letters, posters and proclamations are chalked on surfaces to suggest an impermanence.
Andrew Chevalier’s jumpy Franz displays psychological instability while Tom Radford’s Karl shows authority unbalanced by extreme emotional turbulence. The storms and stresses within Karl’s robber-band are represented by Cary Crankson’s rebellious Spiegelberg, while as the faithful-unto-death Schweizer Damian Lynch completes a trio of finely delineated and spoken roles in this year’s Faction season at the New Diorama. Kate Sawyer’s Amalia, assaulted, clothes ripped, mentally distressed and innocent victim, gives the character genuine emotional life in this appropriately rough-hewn yet vivid production.
Feigling/Daniele: Jeryl Burgess.
Franz Von Moor: Andrew Chevalier.
Spiegelberg: Cary Crankson.
Max Von Moor: Alexander Guiney.
Razmann: Christopher Hughes.
Schweizer: Damian Lynch.
Schwarz: Alastair Kirton.
Roller: Lachlan McCall.
Grimm: Jonny McPherson.
Herma: Derval Mellett.
Karl Von Moor: Tom Radford.
Amalia: Kate Sawyer.
Director: Mark Leipacher.
Lighting: Matt Graham, Chris Withers.
Composer: Thomas Whitelaw.
Voice coach: Simon Money.
Fight director: Roger Bartlett.