EFR - Reviews of Mr Kolpert

Mr Kolpert

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2011

reviews

Edie Livesey

at 12:01 on 15th Aug 2011

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Sarah (Roseanna Frascona) and Ralf (Oliver Lavery) invite one of Sarah’s work colleagues Edith (Francesca Witting) and her husband Bastian (Timothy Allsop) round for dinner and tell them Mr Kolpert from accounts is dead in the trunk. There follow some farcical misunderstandings and some odd episodes with a pizza delivery man (Philip de Winter Shaw), until the whole thing concludes in a weird ending. This play was excellent in the middle but awful at the beginning and end.

The concept for the farce is a good one, and the way in which the stress of it affects the characters was well developed. Allsop’s nervous anger drove the middle of the play as it explored the concept of normality. The apparently personable hosts are insulting him – does that make his anger justified? Is he weird, or the reaction of the normal against the weird? Towards the end the hosts think the normal is a set of agreed weird practices; yet the tears and the nakedness of the final scene suggest that what they’ve violated is no human code but something essential and biological. Trying to feel again, they have done something both abnormal and unnatural. What they feel – horror – is the natural reaction to a pointless and inhuman act.

The exchanges on chaos and pizzas, winning and losing, architecture and drink are slick. The cast effectively manages the transitions between the polite table talk (with aggressive undertones) and the overwrought violence. What becomes disturbing is how funny the play is, before a sudden and total change in mood dictates the rest of the performance.

Designer Rachel Beaconsfield Press’ set is superbly simple. A poster reading Keep Calm and Carry On overlooks the proceedings and the main piece of furniture becomes an increasing elephant in the room.

The weakness of the beginning was down to a lack of commitment from the actors – this was fortunately quickly dissipated. The end, on the other hand, seemed difficult to manage. While in parts the nervous energy was alarming, and the pack instinct that seemed to kick in added an extra dimension to the normal/natural debate – particularly effective as the three of them chose their next victim while sitting on the trunk – the performances were generally less convincing. Alone together on the stage again, Frascona and Lavery lost their energy, began to fudge their line endings, and to generally fall back into vacuity. Perhaps this is the point – that they need a kind of cruel interaction with others to have feelings – but it came across as uncertainty as to how to play their lines.

The play is well worth seeing for its middle, but the end is just too odd, and the cast don’t manage to make the characters’ repentance credible. Instead of appreciating the dark prelapsarian theme, I was left feeling it was out of place.

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Fen Greatley

at 13:09 on 17th Aug 2011

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In Gieselmann's disturbing play, five characters end up inextricably involved in a morbid but worryingly amusing saga of death and dodgy dinner conversation.

Sarah (Roseanna Frascona) and Ralf (Oliver Lavery) are a couple for whom everything quickly stagnates – they won't marry, presumably, because of this. The pair are fed up with experiencing a profound lack of feeling; it is thus with a slight raising of the eyebrows that we mark the arrival of their dinner guests, Edith (Francesca Wilding) and Bastian (Timothy Allsop), a supremely boring married couple who probably stopped feeling anything a long time ago.

As it happens, Sarah and Ralf just want to mess with their heads for entertainment; there's never any intention to cook dinner, take away the preferred option. All that's on the menu seems to be talk of Mr Kolpert from accounts, who's been killed. When, why and how, we ask. For the duration of the evening his body acts as the real elephant in the room (or rather, trunk) as it cannot bear not mentioning for longer than two minutes.

In such a stifling and artificial environment, we see tempers flair and unlikely infidelities blurted out. Tension is always at boiling point and we see the drama that arises with a sheer lack of chemistry or order between the characters – it's like Big Brother for the stage. Even in 'normal' conversations about characters' day jobs we end up discussing Chaos Theory and fights break out, behaviour increasingly irrational and nonsensical. Frascona's wonderfully chilling composure is successfully achieved through the permanently cold, intelligent look with which she surveys the room, the only character not to disintegrate.

As the saner personalities and the voice of reason switches back and forth between the two couples, it all eventually collapses as the pizza delivery boy arrives, departs, arrives and never leaves – the actual external voice of reason.

The 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster becomes truly disconcerting as the misdoings escalate until it becomes normal and stagnane themselves. Social customs have been scrutinised and disgarded and what is left is terrifying and unmanoeuvrable.

This drama achieves perfection in nothing: it is gripping theatrical fibre with no point or purpose whatsoever. Just watching it, my heart can hardly stand the strain it's under. Every character is fully realised, the characterisation immaculate. Special mention must go to Francesca Wilding, whose role is the hardest to portray convincingly, yet who does easily the best job.

Director Will Maynard has simply excelled in this production, not only in casting but in everything. Go and see this.

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