Posts Tagged ‘New Diorama Theatre’

One Hour Eighteen Minutes, New Diorama Theatre 17 November

November 18, 2012


A picture I swiped from Twitter

This is a documentary play about the case of Sergei Magnitsky; the title refers to a mysterious period shortly before his prison death, either from pancreatitis or from a severe beating.

In fact the play lasted an hour.

The problem was that it didn’t work as a play:  there were very many short scenes aimed at establishing factual points, and the fact that Magnitsky never appeared on stage meant that dramatic conflict was never developed.  The traditional Russian approach of leaving troublemakers in gaol until they either rot or become harmless some other way might have shocked the uninformed, but would they have been interested in the play anyway?  Of course a production in Russia where performers and audience would be worrying what would be going to happen to them would be a different matter…

The set was very effective, and Alan Francis did a good turn as Magnitsky’s colleague and shamblingly charismatic surrogate.  All of the video projection technology worked.  Free books from the Glas backlist were on display outside for you to take away.

The Robbers New Diorama Theatre 18 November

November 20, 2010


Picture of blackdrop and letter from thefaction FB page

I didn’t know the first thing about The Robbers before attending this performance, and afterwards I had the impression of someone trying to get in references to all of his favourite bits of Shakespeare and at the same time inventing melodrama.  (I guess the Roald-Dahl-flavoured chocolate mention by Franz von Moor was down to translator/adaptor Danny Millar.)

So the idea is that Maximilian von Moor has two sons Franz and Karl.  Franz stays at home and alienates his father from Karl as a result of which the older brother turns his university pals into a band of robbers in the woods of Bohemia.  Then after convoluted plotting he returns in disguise to the ancestral Schloss but cannot free himself from his evil deeds and companions and so his long-lost sweetheart Amalia and almost everyone else end up dead.

Kate Sawyer put in a very strong performance as Amalia and even looked German to me, which is going beyond the call of duty.  She was also very good in their version of Kabale und Liebe,  and surely deserves  to act in front of something more glamorous than black paint–and indeed to act fully clothed.    There was a lovely recognition scene between her and Karl (played by Michael Lindall, though the programme said somebody else).  At that stage, I rather feared a happy ending, but my anxieties were groundless….

The corps de ballet of robbers had some interesting crowd scenes, for instance invading the Schloss von Moor in slow motion–perhaps Diorama means slow motion–and there was an effective directorial coup as the confrontation between Karl and a priest come to talk him out of his wicked ways was plunged into sudden darkness and the interval began.

*I* think this is Michael Tindall as Karl von Moor (from the FB page again)

I had difficulty keeping track of (or caring) which of the robbers was which, and on occasions I also had difficulty in making out what they were saying (especially the uncredited person who was really playing Schweizer).  I would surely have felt some empathy with the coldly-manipulative and finally-ineffective Franz, but Richard Delaney seemed to me neither evil nor pathetic enough.

The black-painted black wall exerted its usual soulsucking effect on me, and the business of chalking correspondence and a ‘Wanted’ poster on it just seemed to take up time rather than adding suspense.  But generally I think thefaction came out ahead in this round of their heavyweight match with Schiller.

Hecuba New Diorama Theatre 10 August

August 10, 2010


At the beginning of this production, Paula James as Helena sang

Sophisticated, complicated, Troy is at its prime

among a crowd of celebrating Trojans.  Then they clapped in slow motion and fell together in appalled slow motion as Troy was captured.  I detected an active theatrical intelligence at work.

Then it all rather went into Greek drama autopilot for me.  The Trojan women were dressed in nice clean white robes showing no sign of rough handling and the mean were in nice clean black suits.  They made nice pictures nicely-lighted on stage but I was somehow uninvolved.  As Polyxena, Jasmyn Burke seemed to be taking her sacrifice rather too calmly from the beginning, not coming to see it finally as the way to maintain her noble freedom.

As for Natalie Lesser as Hecuba–how do you do Greek tragedy on a scale that is so different from the one intended?   I think you can shout and scream and try to physically dominate the audience (who are after all not so far away) or speak very softly so they can hardly hear and are all the time afraid of losing you.  This production was very much stuck in the middle.  It also ended with what probably seemed like comic nonchalance to an audience who may not have appreciated the prophetic force of the final denunciation of Hecuba from Polymestor (Simon Wegrzyn).  Surely his struggle with the Trojan women and blinding should have been drawn out to hellish length, to provide some balance in the arc of the play at least?  Here it tailed off quite tamely after just over an hour.

What about the chorus?  Here, they basically made nice pictures on stage, which I didn’t find very inspiring.

There was a man (presumably director Ricky Dukes) sitting in the middle of the back row with a diffuse source of light and a loose-leaf folder making (as it seemed) copious notes.  I wonder what they said?

New Diorama Theatre--certainly new to me!