Thursday, May 5, 2016
'Mr Kolpert' at the Lion & Unicorn, 4th May 2016
Thursday, May 5, 2016 by londoncitynights
Each of us enjoys the fruits of civilisation: manners, politeness, order and morality. But that stuff is an eggshell thin barrier above a yawning chasm. Somewhere deep down we understand that the universe is without purpose, that there is no underlying meaning and that every single action by every human who will ever exist, noble or evil, is irrelevant. The sum total of human endeavour is fruitlessly pissing into a vast, infinite void.
This nihilism fuels David Gieselmann's Mr Kolpert, which examines the life's pointlessness and the consequential emotional numbness through the time-old dramatic scenario of the middle class dinner party.
Our hosts are Ralf Droht (Peter Watts) and Sarah Kenner (Libby Rodcliffe). We're introduced to them as they fussily tidying in advance of their guests arrival, ominously chit-chatting about how they'll unknowingly provide the entertainment for the evening. Soon the happy couple, Bastian and Edith Mole (Benjamin Victor and Kate Austen) arrive and are summarily informed that the large chest in the centre of the room contains the body of the eponymous Mr Kolpert, who their hosts have casually (yet brutally) murdered. But does it really or are these mind games?
Gieselmann proceeds to put all his characters (along with Matt Lynch's confused pizza delivery man) through the wringer. The hosts reveal themselves as bourgeois sadists desperate to feel more than ennui, the Schrödinger's box at centre stage begins emitting a disturbingly organic thumping sound, the guests vicious abuse one another and the stage becomes spackled with vomit. Even their pizza order is screwed up.
It's horrible stuff, but it's happening to horrible people so it's okay. The gradual intensification of violence, combined with the dreary suburban backdrop reminded me of Michael Haneke's Funny Games, where we find ourselves both entertained by and implicated in violence. By the time we're in the final scenes we're completely on board with the same bored inclination to violence that's driven Ralf and Sarah to commit bloody murder 'just to see what happens'.
It's an excellent play, extremely funny but with meaning bubbling away just under the surface. Each cast member is enjoyable in their own ways - though I had an instant soft spot for Peter Watts' Ralf. He buffoonishly alpha males his way around the stage, to my mind channelling a bit of Boris Johnson. Though confident and cocky there's this tiny glimmer of fear in his eyes, Watts' performance making it clear that though Ralf revels in his amorality he can't understand where it arises in him.
But my absolute favourite was Benjamin Victor. Back in March 2015 he knocked my socks off in Blink Theatre's The Collector, and he did the same here (incidentally, both plays use the nauseating stink of Heinz Big Soup to their advantage). Victor has this incredibly intense stage presence that director Lotte Ruth Johnson harnesses for laughs, particularly his absolute indignance when playing Forehead Detective.
It all ends on a pitch perfect moment of awkwardness, the characters realising they've plumbed the depths of wickedness and they're still unsatisfied. Stuff like this is the reason I love fringe theatre - Mr Kolpert is a gem of a play that's staged in style and for the fraction of the price of some glitzy West End glamorama. Highly recommended!
Mr Kolpert is at the Lion & Unicorn until 14 May. Tickets here.Tags: benjamin victor , BLink Theatre , David Gieselmann , kate austen , libby rodliffe , lion & unicorn , matt lynch , Mr Kolpert , peter watts , theatre