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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Lulu, written by Frank Wedekind - considered by many to be the founder of German Expressionist Theatre - is a tragedy about the rise and fall of its eponymous femme fatale as sex, greed and materialism rip apart civilised society to leave bare a pathological underbelly and the artificialities of bourgeois values. As an actor Wedekind struggled to develop a vocal delivery that could match the physical language he created, and compliment the highly stylised and often absurd dialogue of his plays. This cast have similar problems but what the actors lack in vocal delivery they make up for in song, dance, mime and sheer creativity.

The set, designed by Heidi Smith, is charming. Consisting simply of an arch with drawn curtains like a circus tent, it allows the eccentrics and eccentricities to come and go without losing sight of the meta-theatricality that's so crucial for the play to succeed. Director Rachel Snider uses colour and costumes to creatively represent the play’s symbolism: red balloons are burst to imitate gunshot wounds; a toy rocket and hand-held planets conjure up a vision of flight. Snider's training at Jacques Lecoq Theatre School, and as a magician’s assistant, shines through as characters transform into animals and don unsettling masks. The entire production has a wonderful playfulness that creates an uncomfortable and intentionally confused combination of exaggerated sexuality and childish innocence.

Music is provided by a live cabaret band fronted by singer Wendy Rose Bevan. Bevan slinks demurely on and off stage in an outfit that would fit neatly into a Galliano fashion show. As narrator she provides a structure to the episodic nature of Lulu, her tragic and beautiful voice highlighting a perversely seductive quality in an otherwise brutal play. It's a shame that so much of the humour lies dormant in the dialogue as the cast excel in other areas, but credit must be given to Snider who prevents the production from ever losing its energy. Despite the cast’s sometimes flat and characterless vocal delivery, Snider successfully visualises the internal emotions of each character in this witty, playful and inventively pantomimesque production of Wedekind's controversial and provocative play.

- James Magniac


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