Tuesday, 20 September 2005

Telefunken by Stuart Orr, Sept 20, 2005

 Telefunken by Stuart Orr
Table 9 Productions and Malthouse Theatre
The Tower, CUB Malthouse, Sept 20 to 25, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stuart Orr is a compelling presence in his solo work, Telefunken. His show is a clever and eccentric blend of physical performance, multiple characters, Nazi propaganda, film footage, projections and soundscape.

The Telefunken world collides with the real world of World War Two history and contemporary  television but .it has more in common with a Grimm's fairy tale.

The central figure is Ralph Gerhard Mann, a young German soldier who is holed up in an abandoned Berlin cinema in the final days of the war. He addresses the audience as American liberation soldiers who he wants to leave.

Ralph is shirtless, a bare, emaciated figure in a cluttered chaotic environment.

Wires lead from his head to an rough,  old television set. Playing on a screen behind him are excerpts from Hitler Youth propaganda, Oprah episodes and footage of the Iraq war and George W Bush.

He tells a fractured tale, a movie script that he writes as he aits to be captured. It is about Erasmus, a Jewish boy who is tormented by other boys,becomes a soldier and finally transforms into a werewolf Nazi figure akin to Hitler and obsessed with Parisian negro jazz.

Orr's analogy is not quite clear but seems to raise questions such as - Is television fascism? Is its invasion of our minds propaganda?

Whatever the message , the execution is vivid, entertaining and cunningly wrought. Orr transforms between characters, using accents and physical transformations to people the stage with personalities.

He plays the characters in Erasmus story as famous actors: Michael
Caine is he grandfather, Brad Pitt is Erasmus and Schwarzenegger and Peter Lorre make hilarious cameo appearances.

Telefunken is performed impeccably and directed seamlessly by Barry Laing. The action is constant and the complexity of images and the shifting levels of time and place are handled cleverly.

It is a complex and cluttered world that requires phenomenal energy and continual transformations from Orr. He performs it effortlessly.

The evocative lighting ( Matthew Brber) and projected design is integral to the composition of the show. The video montage ( Orr and Thom Brandon) is intercut with delightfully simple pen and ink drawing (Eloise Bowden) representing Erasmus' journey in a children's book style.

Stuart Orr's Telefunken is comical, cynical, ironical and very entertaining.

By Kate Herbert

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