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A CurtainUp London Review
Gross und Klein
There are moments of pure absurdity; for instance, in the block of flats where Lotte meets someone concealed inside a green tent, who never comes out when anyone else is around but moves the tent across the room reminding me of my daughter’s sleepover parties when, with their legs inside their sleeping bags, the little girls shuffled around the room on their knees like oversized caterpillars. The absurdist humour will tickle some of the audience but not all. There are also quite sexually explicit moments, of genital rubbing or the wafting of deodorant around Lotte’s crotch which I wasn’t totally comnfortable with, but which engendered hearty laughter. Other moments are like a revue sketch, as when Lotte rings different bells on the apartment intercom looking for the one person she thinks lives there.
Some images are very powerful and stay with you. When Lotte meets her husband’s new mistress, the status of this woman is exposed when she unzips her dress to reveal a T shirt emblazoned with the face of Lotte’s husband. In one image, more has been said about the shifting relationship than in dozens of conversations. In another scene, the tall, thin piece of a corner set pushes forward with Lotte trapped inside it, in a brilliant depiction of the claustrophobia of mental walls closing in on you. We could feel how oppressive the walls were becoming. Much of the dialogue falls on Cate Blanchett as Lotte and several scenes call for her spoken reflections and observation. She is an amazing actress but this play is hard work for one person because Lotte is the only character we care about.
The opening scene sees Lotte on holiday in Agadir, Morocco commenting on her fellow travellers except that it isn’t possible to imagine Lotte would not be hit upon by the many Moroccan men offering extra services to tourists. The second scene has her looking into the flat of an arguing couple where the woman has a large fashion wardrobewhich she invites Lotte to comment on. The second act opens with a scene in a glass fronted telephone box, Lotte’s hands on the glass showing the confined nature of her distress. The family scenes has her brother’s children, two enfants terrible, Albert and Josfina recommending that people should not procreate. Albert obsesses with sex and masturbates and Josefina is a teenager with a drink problem. In a beautifully set up stylised office, Lotte tries to hold down an office job but stress takes its toll on her sanity.
I suspect this play might need to be seen on several occasions before you would start to understand the many complex threads but you might need a degree of obsession to undertake this or at least a relationship with the production.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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