Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dance of Death, April 24, 2013 ***1/2

By Friedrich D├╝rrenmatt (After August Strindberg's play)
English translation by Tom Holloway 
Malthouse Theatre, April 24 until May 19, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 24
Review published in Herald Sun online on April 26, 2013, and will appear in print later. KH

The opening scene of Dance of Death is undeniably bold and dangerous, with Jacek Koman and Belinda McClory playing an ageing couple engaged in a brutal battle of words that playwright, Friedrich D├╝rrenmatt, presents as a gruelling and tenacious boxing match.

Koman is riveting as Edgar, an embittered, merciless but ailing military man who treats his wife, Alice (McClory), with ruthless disregard.

Koman has a formidable stage presence and plays Edgar with a visceral physicality combined with impeccable comic delivery that makes his character unpredictable and thrilling.

McClory’s Alice is shrewd, manipulative and hostile like a trapped rat, and she shifts imperceptibly and dexterously from elegant, shattered beauty to primitive, ugly rage.

David Paterson, as Kurt the visitor, is the temperate foil for the couple’s callous and predatory fights, acting initially as a referee but finally being sucked into their toxic relationship.

The actors never leave the stage, so the trio is incarcerated in this glass cage (Dale Ferguson), forced into proximity like zoo animals while we peer into their jail, witnessing their every sordid move, their rage and emotional deterioration.

Matthew Lutton’s production is a grotesque, black comedy, and Tom Holloway’s daring English translation uses gritty, modern dialogue and is ripe with offensive, sometimes funny expletives.

Lutton employs some cunning and witty theatrical devices, including multiple microphones, a tiny door to provide sound effects, a working pianola, vibrant lighting (Paul Jackson) and pervasive brass music (Kelly Ryall).

However, although Lutton’s production begins as compelling, impassioned conflict, it degenerates into a shouting match at times, and the play becomes an assault on the senses, lacking dynamic range and crying out for some contrast or subtlety.

But it is worth seeing this production just to see Koman in action on stage again.

By Kate Herbert

 Jacek KomanBelinda McClory, David Paterson

English text by Tom Holloway
Directed by Matthew Lutton
Set & Costume Design 
Dale Ferguson
Lighting Design 
Paul Jackson
Composition & Sound Design 
Kelly Ryall

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