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Good Night Out Presents
Pay As You Go


By Steven Hevey


Directed by Samuel Miller


Cock Tavern Theatre


20 July - 14 August 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Kabale und Liebe (Intrigue/Love) was written in 1784 by Schiller whilst he was in prison for criticising the hypocrisy of the establishment in his first play, Die Rauber, (The Highwayman, 1781). Schiller is often paired with Goethe as one of the greats of German literature and he is a key figure of German Romanticism during the time of the Enlightenment. He is best known for being the pioneer of bürgerliche Trauerspiel (Tragedy of ordinary people) or more literally a play of mourning - Intrigue/Love is  his most obvious example of this genre. Schiller was heavily influenced by Shakespeare and the plot of Intrigue/Love resembles Romeo & Juliet, but features a union between two lovers at opposite ends of the social spectrum.

Intrigue/Love tells the story of the hot headed, Ferdinand (Cerith Flinn) son of the Chancellor (Steven Blake) and his love for the shy, Louisa (Alice Henley) daughter of the low born musican, Mr Miller (Danny Millar) and his wife (Derval Mellet). The Chancellor is intent on securing influence in the Duke's Court and decides that Ferdinand must marry Lady Milford (Kate Sawyer), a high ranking aristocrat and one of the Duke's concubines, in order to ensure power for himself. He sends his deputy the slithering Worm (Gareth Fordred) to carry out his orders, yet Ferdinand opposes his father's wishes and rejects the jealous Lady Milford. As a consequence the Chancellor and Worm hatch a plot to bring ill repute on Louisa and plant the seeds of doubt in Ferdinand's mind, leading to an inevitably tragic conclusion.

Inside the sooty, bare brick tunnel of Southwark Playhouse, the audience sit on rostra on three sides of the floor level set, a diamond patterned plywood square. The actors in a modern take on 18th Century dress begin by sitting on eight chairs lined up against the back wall, their hands on their knees, staring blankly forward. Leipacher creates an initial level of order and a sense that the actors are like pawns awaiting their turn to be used on the chessboard of court politics.

Mr Miller (Danny Millar) plays the no-nonsense Northern father to Louisa in a convincing, down to earth manner. Millar anxiously paces around the set, tuning his violin, wearing a crimson, corduroy, knee length jacket and black waistcoat. Much humour is derived from his constant bickering with his wife (Derval Mellet) over concerns for their daughter and his suspicion of Ferdinand. Mellet, in Burberry patterned corset, shrewishly chastises him and stubbornly refuses to act as his housewife. Millar and Mellet's relationship is a homely combination that brings much needed warmth to the coldness of the play. Despite the Millers protestations they are powerless to resist the Chancellor's will and are punished for Mr Miller’s plain talking impudence.

The Chancellor (Steven Blake) as a member of the court has heavy white make up laid across his face, creating a gaunt, ghostly quality to his expressions, his ashen hair and grey bushy eyebrows adding to the effect. In a long grey pin-striped jacket he holds the stage with distinguished gravitas, hardly moving a muscle. His stillness enhances his stage presence and adds a powerful sense of foreboding dread. Blake has a very measured, low, almost groaning way of speaking; he orders his son as though he were sentencing a criminal in court and will not tolerate any insubordination. The Chancellor's reliance on the Worm however, proves to be his downfall, as they are tied to each other's corruption, stating to the Worm “I am holding you by your villainy, like a fish on a hook”. Blake excellently portrays the fearful, desperation that underlies the Chancellors imperious exterior.

Gareth Fordred's Worm is a truly repulsive character who bears more than a passing resemblance to the Yellow Bastard from Frank Miller's Sin City. His bald head is daubed in thick white paint and he wears a long leather trench-coat with wizard sleeves that would not look out of place on a officer of the Gestapo. Fordred's voice has a metallic sheen to it as he insidiously hisses the S's of each word and loathesomely extends the th's. There are parallels between him and Angelo from Measure for Measure in his avarice, but Worm is by far the more disturbing character, due to his complete lack of conscience. In one particularly disturbing scene, he crouches behind the defenceless Louisa while dictating a letter to her, dipping his head into her hair - you can hear the lingering creak of his military boots, intensifying the unease.

Louisa, played by Alice Henley in a grey skirt and corset, conveys a shy girl at the centre of events which revolve around her but are entirely out of her control. Henley looks suitably traumatized as she is subjected to the Worm's lecherous advances. After her parent's incarceration she transforms from a blissfully oblivious, young girl, in love with Ferdinand to a lost soul wandering the streets at night, her vacant eyes display her distant lack of attachment to the world.

Cerith Flinn as the impetuous Ferdinand, rushes about the stage with youthful gusto. In an urban camouflage knee length jacket, waistcoat, neckerchief, black jeans, boots and dagger at his hilt, Flinn looks the spitting image of a romantic hero. He gives a zealous performance of a young man who is carried completely by the whim of his emotions, swinging from star struck lover to double crossed victim in an instant. Flinn's expressive eyebrows and proud, handsome looks, suitably communicate his hot headed tendencies.

Kate Sawyer plays the “contemptuous sinner”, Lady Millford in a black and white, rose swirled dress clutching a riding stick. Her face, an overly painted combination of powdered white foundation and heavy red blusher, give the impression of a vain woman striving for her youthful looks.  Sawyer gives a strong performance of the erratic Lady Millford, as she fluctuates between the haughty condescension of a sneering aristocrat and the cruel fury of a jealous succubus.

Calf, played by Richard Delaney in black and white, knee length coat and white face paint, plays the fawning servant of Lady Milford. Delaney portrays a man whose attraction to his mistress is only equalled by her loathing of him, yet her reliance on him is total.  Delaney's nasal voice adds effectively to his snide comments and supercilious behaviour.

Leipacher's staging is frequently inventive. Using just chairs, their positions are transformed to suit the atmosphere of each scene. From the ordered row of them at the start, to the chairs being slammed down by the cast to instigate the carnival, they create a sparse, yet strong visual impression. Worm symbolically sets the actors on the chairs, when he is discussing his plot with the Chancellor, and pairs the appropriate characters opposite each other, which works well aesthetically but also practically to inform the audience of their design. After the interval, the chairs are stacked on each other in a haphazard tower as the cast balance on them, discarding sheets of paper on Ferdinand's head as he reads Louisa's letter that exposes her as having cheated on him, mirroring the unbalanced state of his emotions. The chairs help to reflect the psychological landscape of the characters. Ferdinand at one point throws them about the stage, in a fit of anger, where they lay strewn about the set, creating an apt sense of frustration and havoc.

Lighting was particularly powerful in the play, with Graham suddenly contrasting the straw, and warmth of the Miller's household, with glacial blues for the Worm and The Chancellor's meetings. Stark white light also intensified scenes with Lady Millford, making her heavily made up face glare violently in the brightness. The interesting decision to illuminate the ceiling of the tunnel with steely blue light captured an eerie quality that worked well as Louise lay draped against the dark bricks.

The Faction's production of Schiller's Intrigue/Love is an exciting piece of theatre that really captivates the audience, maintaining energy and verve throughout. At no point during the two and a half hours did it lose any of its vigour, but remained constantly entertaining. The sinister meetings between the Worm and the Chancellor are imbued with a real sense of menace and iniquity which keeps the audience aware of the play's dark underbelly, which threatens to rupture the surface at any moment. Liepacher's direction allows the action to be viewed from three sides of the auditorium and makes for a more naturalistic staging, with faces at times obscured, keeping the audience tantalized.

The Faction succeeds in creating a gripping version of Intrigue/Love showing the ominous repercussions of Louise's dictum “speak truth to power”. The Faction resurrects Schiller's Intrigue/Love with an ensemble electricity of powerhouse performances which surge towards the final shocking crescendo.

 

Southwark Playhouse
Shipwright Yard
(Corner of Tooley St. & Bermondsey St.)
London
SE1 2TF

Booking Line: Tel: 020 7407 0234

(Mon - Fri, 10.30am - 6.30pm)

July 20th 2010 - August 7th 2010
£8/ £13/ £18

 

 

 

 

 

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