05 October 2009

Judgement Day by Ödön von Horváth
translated by Christopher Hampton

Woodsman/Deputy - Andy Williams
Fray Leimgruber - Sarah Woodward
Salesman/Detective/Platelayer - Jack James
Fray Hudetz - Suzanne Burden
Alfons - David Annen
Ferdinand - Daniel Hawksford
Anna - Laura Donnelly
Thomas Hudetz - Joseph Millson
Policeman - Jake Nightingale
Landlord - Tom Georgeson
Leni - Julie Riley
Kohut/Customer/Public Prosecutor/Pokorny - Patrick Drury
Child - Lewis Lemprereur Palmer
Child - Thomas Patten

Directed by James Macdonald
Designed by Miriam Beuther

Seen on the night of the post show talk at the Almeida Theatre. Took a seat in the front row of the circle & wasn't very comfy. Not even enough room for my silly stumpy legs and the railings induced back-bending agony all round. My mistake since I knew all this. I don't know why I booked that seat.

Michael Attenborough came on stage before the lights went down. We were told that Joe had been suffering with a very sore throat for 36 hours and I sensed hearts plummeting to the floor.

Michael took rather a long winded opportunity to tell everyone about the lack of luxuries in a theatre like the Almeida to wit, there are no understudies. I thought it was odd that he referred to the National Theatre in his gripe since it's funding is so transparent but what do I know? I certainly don't mean to in any way play down the struggle that these wonderful independent theatres have but I was confused by the example given.

The good news was that Joseph was going to appear despite feeling so poorly and with the sincere appreciation and thanks of a the mighty artistic director. The audience exhaled with relief and in the absence James Macdonald that night, I thought it was wonderful that Michael made the announcement. In the event, he hardly needed to as Joe performance was faultless.

First comment is about the set design and the inspired use of the train turning-house concept. The back wall of the Almeida, with it's bare brick and gentle curve always reminds me of the interior of the Roundhouse and when they swung the platform around at all angles, the image was complete and as it turned out, that was one of the inspirations for the set. One thing in favour of not being downstairs was the enormous amount of smoke used when trains entered the station but from where I was, the effect seemed wonderful. The lighting was glorious, making this a very stylish production.

An incredibly interesting piece investigating the nature of guilt and self-absolution but not necessarily in that order! The individual characters were well realised and performed with steady enthusiasm.

The post show talk brought a couple of areas of contention between the cast and audience in so far as many people felt there was an implied notion of incest between the brother and sister which the cast flatly denied any knowledge of. There was also a debate about whether one or two bells were heard as the train missed the signal. I didn't hear the first one but I thought Ms Woodward had said we didn't hear it because we were concentrating on the kiss, however one of my companions on the evening who had seen the play twice, said there was no first bell to be heard. Confused? You don't need to be. I think it was just a little company toy to play with. It may even have been a missed queue that night, for all I know!

A fabulous story, very well told but don't trust me - read.......The Independent, The Times and The Stage to link a few randomly.

For more glorious pictures, check out the Almeida Theatre website.