|"Home’s thought provoking debut play"|
by Julia Taylor for remotegoat on 31/05/15
The Funfair, the opening production at HOME’S new £25 million new theatre. is a blaze of colour and sound including a live band, hobby horses and a freak show.
HOME is the organisation formed by the amalgamation of the Library Theatre Company and Cornerhouse, the former cinema and art gallery.
The razzmatazz doesn’t only apply to the set but to the theatre itself. For this production takes place shortly after the new premises everyone has been waiting for, were declared open.
The opening play, based on Kasimir and Karoline, an early twentieth century work by renowned German playwright, Odon von Horvath, has been reworked and updated by Simon Stephens, known for his The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
The choice of this play is a sign of things to come. For the new 500 seat theatre will specialise in international contemporary theatre and the rest of the complex, with art, film and books.
The auditorium is light and airy and has the most comfortable seats that have ever adorned my posterior as well as lots of leg room.
As for the play itself, the image of a lively fun fair, created by Ti Green, doesn’t tell the whole story. For this play is no merry-go-round. The fair is merely the background to the relationship of the renamed Cash and Caroline which is not a happy one.
Jealous Cash is not pleased when Caroline ‘s attraction to the eccentric John Chase (Rhodri Heur) spills over, later to be followed by his boss.
The funfair is a substitute for the Oktoberfest which was the equally cheery setting for the original.
Indeed the storyline is quite depressing and highly political although, occasionally it glisters with wonderfully dry humour. It has a pleasant, dreamlike quality, too, which I find very attractive.
Reflecting to-day’s social uncertainties, it has themes of anti-capitalism.
The key roles are taken by Ben Batt and Katie Moore who capture well the couple’s love/hate relationship but, however good their acting, they seem more like caricatures than solid characters.
Just as in the original, Cash loses his job as a chauffeur and, unwilling to join in with the fun, gets in with bad company and drinks himself senseless.
Meanwhile, Caroline, has a whale of a time and flirts with male admirers. The ending is not happy, just a compromise.
Like most well-told tales, this production has a narrator, a role taken by James Lusted who spells out clearly both the actions and the reactions of the characters. He is one of my favourite performers.
Although contemporary in setting and language, the characters watch a Zeppelin which can hardly be described as present day.
A word about director, Walter Meierjohann who is also Home’s Artistic Director. He was responsible for directing the company’s award winning site specific production of Romeo and Juliet.
The Funfair is different in that the leading couple, unlike Romeo and Juliet which, I believe., far outshined this show, split up at the start. Yet Meierjohann’s touch of genius gives the audience something to think about on a very special occasion.
I do hope that HOME finds time to include the occasional classic among the contemporary theatre it plans. The Library Theatre was famed for such productions.
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