A review by Laura Anderson for EXTRA! EXTRA!



The Noontide Sun Theatre Company presents:

The Double Bass



By Patrick Süskind


Translated by Michael Hoffman


Directed by Christopher Hunter and Andrew Jarvis


New End Theatre


6-24 April 2011


Patrick Süskind is probably best known in the UK for his novel Perfume. The Story of a Murderer, but his play The Double Bass (written in 1981) was a huge critical and commercial success in his native Germany. So much so that it ran for over 500 sell-out performances. It is a one man show narrated by an unnamed double bassist and explores his isolation, his many frustrations and his complicated relationship with his instrument.

Actor/Director Christopher Hunter has had leading roles with the RSC, the National Theatre, the West End and London’s fringe, so it’s no surprise that he makes this slightly neurotic and lonely character likeable, charismatic and a pleasure to spend a couple of hours with. His costume (by designer Lara Booth) is simple and timeless, and his bare feet hint at a vulnerability that manifests itself as the play progresses.

The bassist begins by animatedly explaining the history and importance of the double bass, managing to impart many musical facts while still being engaging and interesting. His love of his craft really shines through, and with expressive hand gestures and body language the emotions of this character are made very clear without being over the top.

The play takes place in the protagonist’s soundproofed music room, and the set (also by Booth) is minimalist – all in beige and black – so as not to distract from our two central characters, the bassist and his double bass. In the bare room where the only furniture is a boxy armchair, the bass dominates the set just as it does the bassists life. This focus is highlighted by Lighting Designer Andy Furby when he spotlights the bass at the start of the play. The bassist swings from utter devotion to his instrument, describing a time when he gave it the coat off his back to protect it when it was raining, to wanting to smash it to bits. Hunter really interacts with the bass. At times he turns angrily away from it with his arms crossed, but at other times lovingly caresses it to the point where he has to apologise to the audience.

Though he seems happy and contented to begin with, notes of discord start to appear as the story goes on. A glass of wine is constantly in his hand or nearby, bitterness about the hierarchy of the orchestra and the status of the double bass within it creeps in, and his secret yearning for a soprano named Sarah is revealed. He tells us that he is often alone. Hunter manages to skilfully manipulate the audience so that we gradually realise that all is not well in his world.

The Double Bass manages to be funny without poking fun at its protagonist, which makes  tragic and earnest moments all the more poignant. The modern touches to the translation (by Michael Hoffman), like urging the audience to look up musical facts on Wikipedia, add to the humour and reminds us that this story is still relevant. A story of loneliness and unfulfilled dreams is one that most of us can relate to, and The Noontide Sun Theatre Company has produced a though provoking and entertaining exploration of an ordinary man’s experiences of these emotions.


Box office:  0870 033 2733 or www.offwestendtheatres.co.uk

New End Theatre

27 New End, Hampstead, London, NW3 1JD
Tue to Sat at 8.30pm, Sat & Sun at 5pm.  Extra performance Easter Sunday at 8.30pm
£16 / £14 (concessions)

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