DramaNorth WestReview

Winter Solstice – Home Theatre, Manchester

Writer: Roland Schimmelpfennig

Translator: David Tushingham

Director: Alice Malin

Reviewer: Sam Lowe

Have we come to watch a rehearsal or a play? The audience is first welcomed with a rehearsal room set, an intriguing design by Lizzie Clachan. We see desk chairs and tables littered with post-it notes, half-full water bottles, highlighters, snacks, and the list goes on. Have they raided the backstage of Home Theatre? This is eye-catching and brilliantly unexpected. The audience is asked to picture the scene by an ensemble of actors: the time of year is Christmas Eve, Bettina and her husband Albert are not in happy spirits because Bettina’s mother is staying for the holidays. To make matters worse, Bettina’s mother has met a stranger on the train and invited him round for drinks. This is a contemporary play about family and the inescapable presence of the past, with historical reference to Nazism and extremism.

The ensemble of actors narrate us through the script, treating us as if we too are actors in the rehearsal room. They fluctuate between acting out the scenes within a fourth wall context and directly addressing the audience. Rudolph, the unsettlingly mysterious stranger, is played well by David Beames, capturing his eccentricities and philosophical mentality. Felix Haynes plays the suspicious Albert, with such effortlessness. His stage vocals are sonorous, speaking out the lines of the play with musicality. As a whole, all the actors, playing actors, also playing characters, form a playful ensemble dynamic.

So, why a rehearsal room setting? The characters in the play, in particular Rudolph, ask existential questions, dissect political ideas, and cross-examine each other’s lives. This is similar to what actors do in the rehearsal room, mining the text of the play, to build up the given circumstances. This intelligent interpretation allows for more exposure of the subtext, humour and character’s thoughts, to the benefit of the audience. The objects in the rehearsal room become stage props for the purpose of rehearsal, sometimes with hilarious consequences. As the play progresses, the desk chairs and tables are moved around, symbolic of how order soon turns into disorder, in reference to one of Rudolph’s monologues.

Winter Solstice is successful at extracting the numerous creative possibilities which can come from one concept. There is this constant “middle ground” between it being a performance of a play but not a performance of a play, at the same time. It’s in this “inbetween” where the fun and exploration lies.

Runs until: 17th February 2018 | Image: Contributed


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