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Secret Life Theatre

In Memory of Edgar Lutzen

 

by David Hauptschein

 

Based on the occult diaries of August Strindberg

 

Directed by Julio Maria Martino

 

Old Red Lion Theatre

 

2-20 February 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A review by Greg Wohead for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Upon entering the appropriately small upstairs space at the Old Red Lion to see Secret Life Theatre’s In Memory of Edgar Lutzen, I am immediately invited into the claustrophobic and troubled mind of Lutzen, who we are told is Sweden’s greatest painter.  I walk past a shabby bed in order to get to my seat, as well as a table full of detail: a decanter of absinthe, a tiny cross, a small brush.  Once seated, a feeling of oppression sets in owing to the inwardly angled walls of the attic bedroom onstage and the wood beams overhead.  Stella Scott’s evocative set design intrigues the audience from the moment we enter the space, but unfortunately David Hauptschein’s play doesn’t live up to expectations.

I may have been expecting too much.  In Memory of Edgar Lutzen takes place entirely inside the memory of the downwardly spiraling painter, by turns addressing his interest in the occult, alchemy and telepathic sex as well as his tumultuous relationship with his wife, Harriet (Maria Dalberg).  Taking into consideration that the play is based on the diaries of August Strindberg and takes its inspiration from some of the Swedish dramatist’s plays and the fact that Hauptschein has apparently been referred to as “the David Lynch of theatre”, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I was expecting a colourfully fragmented collage, rich in characterisation and symbolism.  What I got, though watchable– even enjoyable at times, was a great deal of talking that just didn’t take me anywhere.

That said, there were moments when I felt a lovely sort of theatrical magic making its way into the production, mainly when Lutzen’s memories bled into one another as the one room set shifted to a different time and place mid-scene without the actors missing a beat, but unfortunately these moments were sometimes overshadowed by Hauptschein’s wordy dialogue. 

In exploring the mind of a paranoid narcissistic artist as it turns in on itself, Hauptschein falls into the trap of overindulgence and one-sided characterization, as we never see any aspect of Tom Cornish’s Lutzen aside from the raving obsessive, and while Cornish does manage the frenetic energy of a man on the edge, his performance lacks the variation needed to make us care about Lutzen.  Elsewhere Christopher Adlington lends specific humanity and shape to Doctor Lynberry, and Maria Golledge’s Landlady, while at times slightly over the top, is at least diverting in an otherwise average production.

 

Box Office:  020 7837 7816
www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk
Old Red Lion Theatre
418 St John Street
London EC1V 4NJ

Times: Tuesday – Saturday at 7.30pm; Sunday at 6pm

Tickets: £13/concessions £10

 

 

 

 

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