26 June 2012

Democracy by Michael Frayn

Willy Brandt - Patrick Drury
Hans-Dietrich Genscher - Rupert Vansittart
Ulrich Bauhaus - James Quinn
Horst Ehmke - Richard Hope
Günther Nollau - David Cann
Helmut Schmidt - David Mallinson
Reinhard Wilke - Andrew Bridgmont
Günter Guillaume - Aidan McArdle
Arno Kretschmann - Ed Hughes
Herbert Wehner - William Hoyland

Directed by Paul Miller and designed by Simon Daw.

Seen for free in a sadly, half-empty theatre just after press night at the Old Vic. Roger Lloyd-Pack was in the audience and probably other people of note, so desperate were they to paper the house.

It's with a very heavy heart that I confess this didn't have the pace and vigour of the original production in 2003. Paul Miller would be the perfect choice for a piece like this and his cast are beautifully brought together but on this occasion it struggled to come to life.

The performances were good and passionate, particularly from Mr McArdle and the wit of Mr Frayn's script shimmers through but the endless lines of expositional text seemed to be delivered a little like a section of Mock the Week wherein each contestant grabs turns to take middle stage & pontificate. I can see why this happened because the sparsity of soft furnishing in the set meant that a lot of dialogue was either swallowed or distorted by the time it reached a less than full auditorium. I'd throw up some drapes in the wings as near to the front as possible to absorb some of that, if it was me.

The exchanges between Günter and Arno were charming and the production certainly warmed as it went along.

I can't imagine what went wrong with this and I want to believe it was just a bad night. The drop in ticket sales implies that I'm not the first to leave this auditorium scratching my head. It started in Sheffield to very healthy reviews. I wish it every success as I believe it may transfer to the Novello in due course.