The welcoming Party

by Theatre-Rites

5 words: Beautiful, incredible, stunning, magical and moving

First two minutes and I’m thinking, “Why did I sign up to a kids show?”. That thought only lasted for  those two minutes because The welcoming Party is not merely children’s theatre, but a show every person in the UK should experience, including and especially, politicians.

We encounter the characters one by one as they wait for ‘the refugees’ to arrive. Finally, a young Sudanese man appears, very scared at everything around him. Mohamed tells us, through stunning imagery and object manipulation from the ensemble, his journey from Sudan to England. The stories of the others unfold,  a nice touch to make us all realise that at some point, our heritage is always somewhere else. There is a moment in the show where the roles are inverted and we the audience step into the asylum seeker’s shoes by experiencing the ridiculous bureaucracy of the application process.

You can tell the amount of craft and love from all involved. The acting is very committed and the dance masterfully executed by Clementine Telesfort and Carl Harrison. Director Sue Buckmaster has created an incredible world, magical and moving.

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Company’s Website: http://www.theatre-rites.co.uk

Twitter: @TheatreRites

Returning to Reims

By Thomas Ostermeier and The Schaubuhne

3,5 words : Untheatrical, intellectual but Humane

Before I start, I must say that I always look forward for a new Ostermeier production as I never quite know what to expect. His Richard III was one of the best thing I had seen in years, so I had high expectations for this one.

Unfortunately this production does not reach the expected standard and some of the devices used come across as not thoroughly thought through, despite two dramarturgs on the team. It is an extremely hard task to adapt a sociological memoir onto the stage but the device of a film maker making a documentary alienates the audience from the pivotal core of the story: an estranged gay man reencountering his mother after 30 years – they no longer belong to the same social class yet they are blood.  It feels somehow that the production is missing its central point. And this two hour long play becomes intellectual, didactic, perhaps even under rehearsed –  I was unsure if having the character Katie, underplayed by Nina Hoss, reading from the text, was a real choice or a quick fix.

There is a problem of representation too as the working class talked about in a quite nostalgic vein has no voice on stage, except perhaps via the character of Manchester-based Ali Gadema, the recording studio assistant.  However his character’s journey in no way connects to the text being read.

Nonetheless, there is always something inexplicably poetic and very humane about any Ostermeier production. The ending brings exactly that, a humane connection between Eribon’s memoirs and Hoss’s father own story. A shame this second story of connection between a German activist and the people from the Amazon could not be further explored.

But isn’t  the nature of theatre to be constantly evolving?  Maybe this production will do exactly that and rise up to the expectations broached in the post-show  discussion. I’ll certainly give it a second chance.

Company’s website: https://www.schaubuehne.de

Twitter: @shaubühne