A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

Cornelius Cooke presents

 

I Am A Camera

 


 

 

by John Van Druten
 
Inspired by Christopher Isherwood’s novel Goodbye to Berlin
 
Directed by Owen Calvert-Lyons 

 

Rosemary Branch Theatre

 

 

3 – 29 May 2011

 

 

I Am a Camera, the 1951 Broadway play by John Van Druten, earned this cutting riposte from theatre critic Walter Kerr, Me no Leica…”The play, described as too moody, was ahead of its time, yet went on to inspire a film and the iconic 1972 musical Cabaret by Kander and Ebb, staring Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey.”

Viewing the play today, sixty years on, amidst the anniversaries of Christopher Isherwood’s death, whose novel Goodbye to Berlin inspired the play, and its first performance, the overall effect is how striking and fresh this revival is.From the intimate direct address to the audience, which punctuates scenes, and signals a time shift to the episodic lives of characters caught up in pre-Nazi Germany, Christopher sees it all.

His cast is real: the kind-hearted but nosy landlady Fraulein Schroeder; the decadent yet vulnerable Sally Bowles; the rich Jewish heiress Natalia Landauer; the ennobled Fritz and the American cruiser Clive. Central to the play’s success is the belief in the friendship between Sally and Christopher, expertly and entertainingly realised by Vicki Campbell and Mark Jackson.

Impressive in its detail, this production sparkles with intelligence, from its choice of music, (Fergus Waldron), which subtly changes from the ubiquitous saw-like strings and bass oboes of the fox-trot to the rallying rhythms of the German right, to the costumes, (Vissey Safavi), with the cut, colour and co-ordination of 1930’s Berlin-style!  

We become like the author, passive, recording, not thinking….living life as the characters themselves through a haze of mint gin, prairie oysters and champagne. Until moments of truth, such as the storming of a Jewish department store by Nazi sympathisers, Fritz’s declaration that he is a Jew or the closure of the National Bank, bring us up with a jolt.

Everywhere there is a sense of change. The predominantly burnished orange lighting by Charlie Lucas, reminiscent of decay, transition and a sort of sepia-toned nostalgia, is reflected also in the set design by Amy Yardley. A group of silent Berliners outside the central window are visible throughout.   

There is a subtle interplay also in the activity of the writing, through the bold, white slogans on the wall, and the compact, neat presence of the typewriter with its evocative sound. The framing of Christopher by the slogan ‘Our Last Hope,’ completes this homage to a writer and his craft.

All credit to director Owen Calvert-Lyons, whose passion for detail brings about a satisfying, timely revival. This production deserves a transfer, meanwhile, catch it while you can!


 

 

 

 

7.30pm Tuesday - Saturday
2pm Thursday, 3pm Saturday & Sunday
Tickets:
3rd - 8th May £10
10th - 15th May £13 / £11 
17th - 29th May £14 / £12
All Tuesdays £10

 

ROSEMARY BRANCH THEATRE & PUB

2 SHEPPERTON ROAD, LONDON, N1 3DT 

 

BOX OFFICE: 020 7704 6665

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