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Dates in May
|Fri 26 May 2000||12:00am||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
Sold out Performances
(L to R) Lyndsey Marshall as Olga, Ian Gelder as Father, Michael Mallon as Kurt
Production photography by Ivan Kyncl
Direction: Dominic Cooke Design: Ultz Lighting: Ultz & Marion Mahon Sound: Paul Arditti Music: Gary Yershon Movement: Liz Ranken
Cast: Ian Gelder, Gillian Hanna, Michael Mallon, Lyndsey Marshall, Mel Raido
“The Germans have a phrase for new young British dramatists: the Blood and Sperm Generation. Maybe on the evidence of this play by Marius Von Meyenburg and its immediate predecessor at the Court, David Gieselmann’s Mr Kolpert, we should call young German writers the Fire and Fury Brigade, epitomising their anti-bourgeois anger. Dominic Cooke’s production and Ultz’s design are even more strking than the play. We are ushered into a transformed Theatre Upstairs where we sit on swivel chairs around long white tables backed by steep perpendicular walls. In a sense we become the part of the nuclear family – father, mother, daughter Olga and her fire-raising brother Kurt – whose disintegration takes place all around us. The production makes exciting use of the space to express the play’s governing idea: that adolescent withdrawal and parental heedlessness are part of a familiar pattern, but that they also contain a secret fury which here erupts in spectacular violence …
“It is ignorance, rather than the brutal opressiveness, of the bourgeoisie that is Mayenburg’s real target. But it is the conceptual staging that brings the play homes to us … In most plays we are observers: here the staging implicates us in the fiery destruction of a particular family.”
Michael Billington THE GUARDIAN 3 June
“Marius Von Meyenburg’s incendiary piece of stage poetry about incest and murder is like Fassbinder doing Ian McEwan’s The Cement Garden. It features a nuclear family disintegrating for no particularly good reason. Mum and Dad are perfectly cool, even if Dad spends too much time quoting atrocities from the daily paper and even if Mum insists on washing herself immodestly in front of the children – and it’s the children that this play is all about.
“Olga is desperate to fill out her boob tube and not so much lose as destroy her virginity. Little brother Kurt, meanwhile, finds puberty rudely reversing his desire to return to the womb. Olga’s repsonse is to fool around with Kurt and get her hands on the first available bloke, Paul. Paul is a football-shirted youth with a motorbike who warns that he is also a decent, senisble soul. But Kurt is a slower burning fuse and, like any good, self-disrespecting teenager, he turns his hormonal rage into dangerous, customised nihilism.
“Von Meyenburg’s impressively unsentimental writing is in the hard central European tradition of Ionesco and Max Frisch. Although his theme is both violent and morbid, the action is driven by a vitality that beats the mundane material of family life into something more sinister and poetic. He also manages themes of subjectivity, and psychological differentiation with the ease of a natural talent and his play is a taut, simple structure punchily translated by Maja Zade.”
Patrick Marmion EVENING STANDARD 1 June
“Premiered in Germany, Mayenburg’s incendiary play has swept like bushfire across mainland Europe and now receives its English-language premiere at the Royal Court in a wickedly inventive staging by Dominic Cooke and a pitch-perfect translation by Maja Zade…
“Lyndsey Marshal is unnervingly precoscious as the boob-tibed Olga, who professes disappointment that losing her virginity has not been more apocalyptic: “It should tear me apart so I can get out,” she tells her bemused biker boyfriend (the excellent Mel Raido), whose macho thrust is confined to his vehicle. So she continues her erotic egoisme a deux with her pubertal younger brother Kurt, played here by the splendidly fixated and unformed-looking Michael Mallon.
“Mayenburg has an excellent image for being born as like crashing through the door of a fairground ghost train into a stuffy world of scary dummies, but Kurt now says he cannot remember whether birth is crashing in or crashing out of this place. Fireface retains a raw sense of the arrogance of adolescence, that teenagers’ feeling that existence itself is a humiliation. It’s noteworthy that Mayenburg’s pair rebel more violently than their liberal-seeming parents would have done against the previous generation. In Germany, given the country’s recent history, the perversity of that porbably has a broader political significance that the play does not need to spell out, but that in effect vanishes when it is mounted abroad.
“The force, flair and poetry of the writing are not lost in translation, though, and it is an impressive young play, even if, for those of us with children on the brink of puberty, it is not an encouraging one.”
Paul Taylor THE INDEPENDENT 6 June