Alice Dryden (huskyteer) wrote,
Alice Dryden

My Week in German Theatre

I have been to the theatre twice in five days: once to a play set in Germany, and once to a play by a German.

The National Theatre's family show this Christmas is Emil & the Detectives, based on the book by Erich Kästner.

It's rather light on plot - I remembered the book as mostly consisting of a bunch of kids running around Berlin, and this is exactly what I got - but the set is stunning, full of big-city excitement and scariness. The child actors are all very good and bursting with enthusiasm, while the adults have fun portraying the frustrating and ofen hilarious idiocy of grown-ups.

I found it surprisingly subversive, with a strong message about the way children are ordered around and disbelieved by adults; a recurring motif in Kästner's books, now I come to think of it.

Incidental point: in my copy of the book, Emil's cousin is referred to as Pony Hütchen. In the play she's Pony the Hat, and I realised after all these years what 'Hütchen' actually means.

I should also put on record that before the perf I enjoyed one of Pizza Express's Christmas pizzas, which had apple sauce instead of tomato, topped with pork belly and crackling. It was of course an abomination, but a tasty, tasty one.

I was keen to see Bertolt Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui as I did it for German A level, and also because Joe McGann of ITV's The Upper Hand was in it and I consider him a bit of all right.

The play concerns small-time gangster Arturo Ui, his henchmen, and his plans to run a protection racket exploiting the greengrocers of Chicago, then Cicero, then THE WORLD. (Yes, it's an allegory for the Nazis. Just like everything else I did for German A level except Faust.)

I hadn't heard of Henry Goodman, who plays Ui, but he is absolutely fantastic in the role: comical yet sinister, especially in the wonderful scene where he gets an out-of-work thespian to teach him deportment and elocution. I also enjoyed Joe McGann (of course) as Giri, the gangster whose foible is collecting the hats of the unfortunates he's bumped off.

A clever, funny satire, more subtle than it initially appears, with moments of genuine horror made all the more shocking by the exaggerated buffoonery surrounding them.

There isn't actually a cat in it, though, despite the poster:

Tags: theatre

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