DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

The Kaspar Hauser Experiment – Theatre Deli, Sheffield

Reviewer: Sheila Stratford

Writers: Florence Brady, Adam Davies, Henry McGrathand Charles Sandford

Music: Charles Sandford

Director: Adam Davies

Who is Kaspar Hauser? Where has he come from? Who were his parents? Is he telling the truth? You are invited to ‘bear witness to the origins of the boy in question’.

In 1828 a strange youth appears in the town square of Nuremberg. He says he has been held captive in a small cell for seventeen years devoid of contact with the outside world.

People are fascinated by Kaspar and his story. We meet four people who become closely involved in his short life. There is Professor Daumer, his teacher; Clara the wife of a politician who is intrigued by Kaspar’s captivating personality. We also meet Lord Philip Stanhope who is convinced Kaspar is an abducted Prince, and finally there is Herr Meyer, a religious man who takes it upon himself to care for the troubled youth.

In turn his so-called helpers want to mould the innocent Kaspar. But Kaspar turns the tables to question who they are, causing them to become confused and very troubled people themselves.

With rich imagination Animikii Theatre brings to life the riddle / enigma of Kaspar Hauser. Animikii is a laboratory theatre company and the story they have created in The Kaspar Hauser Experiment is both challenging and captivating.

Three of the five performers are also the writers of the play which must bring a great strength of emotion and investment to their roles.

Kaspar’s character is performed outstandingly. He leaps about the space as a troubled, confused slightly demented youth creating a truly captivating and believable Kaspar. Likewise, the tortured character of Meyer, the fascinated Clara, the more down to earth though philosophical Daumer and Lord Philp all perform believable characters.

However, at times it is challenging to comprehend exactly what is happening and the action touches on the absurd. Why is the menacing metronome ticking? Why does Clara suddenly come dressed in a corset? Why does Lord Philip appear like a toy soldier? No doubt it creates the opportunity for the audience’s individual interpretations, but also perhaps creates bafflement.

The movement of this two-act play is carried along by chanting bringing the characters together in their questioning of Kaspar’s origins. Their harmonies are superb as are the solo pieces.

Theatre Deli provides an intimate, fresh theatre space to Sheffield for good, new and experimental theatre.

This energetic, captivating performance creates many questions as did the life of the troubled Kaspar Hauser. Were the answers to the four experiments found? A challenging performance to watch.

Reviewed on 21st September 2023.

The Reviews Hub Score

Captivating and Challenging

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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