Barra Collins in Count Oederland
Where: Inner London
12 January 2012 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews This allegorical piece about the nature of power and freedom is being re-staged to celebrate the centenary year of Swiss novelist and playwright Max Frisch. A friend of Bertolt Brecht, Frisch's existential and political dilemmas call to mind Brecht's plays, and novels such as Camus' The Stranger and Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf. With violent consequences, ordinary men struggle with the idea of freedom and attempt to resist the lies perpetuated by the society around them. Mike Lees' production design is bold and stylish but the performances it stages are unpolished. Evelyn Adams had presence and charm but many scenes are overlong, forced and shrill. Director Christopher Loscher seems unclear whether this is a comedy or a political satire and the result is often a nonsensical farce. Actors take on multiple roles and while sometimes we are expected to acknowledge this dreamlike shifting of identities, at others we're expected to ignore it, making it hard to know who (or what) we are watching.
A naturalistic approach might have allowed the irony inherent in the writing to reveal itself in a more sophisticated way but unsubtle direction, clunky lighting and confusing casting prevents this. As Count Oederland,
Simon Norbury's Nietzschean rants are passionate, but action is heavy with the duty of adaptation; scene by scene, the translated story goes through its faithful motions but never molds together into something with the power to carry itself.
Details, such as the axe supporters wear on their lapel, or the Count's Machiavellian conversation with the president, have resonance but are soon forgotten in the rush of nameless people delivering half-hearted speeches and attempting to get inappropriately-timed laughs. Despite being a
Fight club for the war-torn 50's, the climactic lines carry only an inkling of their former significance; Frisch has many important things to say but sadly this production fails to tap into his power.
- Carmel Doohan
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