by Ferenc Molnár.
Network Theatre 246a Lower Road Waterloo SE1 8SF To 3 September 2011.
Thu-Sat 7.30pm Sun 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 3509 2827.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 August.
Rare sighting of The Wolf gives a chance to catch Carousel’s progenitor.
First, find The Wolf’s lair. Lower Road is a covered delivery-route to the Old Vic side of Waterloo Station. It takes a walk past a security barrier to reach Network Theatre, some way down on the left, identified by a glittering sign from an hour before the show. Operated by a theatre company of railway employees, it’s also hired to visitors, like Sturdy Beggars, who bring Ferenc Molnár’s 1912 play, set in his native Budapest.
Molnár’s twice before been seen on London’s South Bank, with The Guardsman, and Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of The Play at the Castle (shifted to shipboard and renamed Rough Crossing). The Guardsman’s also been turned into a musical. But his biggest entry into musical theatre came when Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted his play Liliom as Carousel.
The programme, silent about the author, points to The Wolf’s themes of insecure masculinity, past relationships, love, social mobility, fame, power and financial security – all to be found in the story of businessman Eugene Kelemen and his wife Vilma. Most evident though is a fascination with possible versions of reality, a theme Luigi Pirandello would soon be picking up.
The three acts cover an evening when the Kelemens dine out, before returning home, then visit a Countess’s soirée for business reasons. Eugene, certain his wife will become discontent with his poor person, is determined to build a fortune to offer her – despite her every appearance of satisfaction.
The reappearance of an old flame tests that in a series of contradictory encounters at the soirée, where he arrives in all the versions of the future he’d imagined. How this happens is revealed at the act’s end, and is followed by a more down-to-earth encounter.
There are rough-edges in the performances, though the relationship between Brendan Jones’s Kelemen and Katherine French’s Vilma develops its own reality. And this is a rare chance to catch an otherwise unseen piece by an intriguing writer, while designer Charlotte Randall’s gold-coloured walls with patterned whorls and green curtaining show a Philip Prowse-like ability to create three localities in one set while economically suggesting wealth and luxury.
Zagon/Secretary: Andrew Mudie.
Mikhal/Lackey: Dan Addis.
Waiter/Mrs Ritter: Lucy McCabe.
Vilma Kelemen: Katherine French.
Eugene Kelemen: Brendan Jones.
George Szabo: Alexander Andreou.
Nanny/Miczi: Helen Booth.
Countess/Cook: Josie Martin.
Director: Jamie Harper.
Designer: Charlotte Randall.
Lighting: Dan Addis.
Sound: Marianna Roe.
Music: Manos Hadjidakis, Marianna Roe.
Choreographer: Jane Stanton.
Costume: Josie Martin, Charlotte Randall.
Assistant director: Hugo Thurston.