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The Theatreguide.London Review

Medeamaterial, Heartpiece and Quartet
Theatro Technis       Spring 2005

German playwright Heiner Muller specializes in deconstructions of classical plays, cutting-and-pasting or completely rethinking the original into a new shape that forces us to see it with fresh eyes.

For a young director and company to take on these challenging works shows admirable ambition, for them to succeed to the degree that iMind Theatrical Productions does with these three short Muller plays is quite an accomplishment.

Mediamaterial reduces the Greek tragedy to a single male actor and some offstage voices. The very brief Heartpiece is a darkly comic literalisation of some romantic cliches. And Quartet takes on Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

Under the direction of Cradeaux Alexander, the first two go by quickly without making much of an impression. But if we take them as mere curtain-raisers, the longer and more impressive third piece is well worth seeing.

Muller takes the original plot, in which the debauchee Merteuil challenges the roue Valmont to seduce two virtuous women, as a jumping-off point for a many-layered exploration of sexual roles and sexual power. 

First, he limits the cast to the two main characters, but then has each played by two performers speaking alternately or in unison. Then he has the two characters act out the imagined seductions of the unseen two other women, but taking turns playing the roles of debaucher and victim.

(Follow that? At certain points the two actresses play Merteuil pretending to be Valmont while the two actors play Valmont pretending to be one of his conquests-to-be.)

With both actors and actresses alternating between the crude advances of the seducer and the coy resistance of the readily seduced, the play removes any familiar context that might keep us from noticing the essential ugliness of the situation and the hypocrisy on all sides

I will confess to not knowing whether the added dislocation of having the actors speak all their lines into microphones strategically placed around the set is the author's idea or the director's.

While it doesn't work with the Medea play, alienating the character even further than the gender dislocation does, it is very effective in the main piece, underlining the artificiality and role-playing of the characters.

While the actor playing Medea is weak, his manner occasionally straying too far in the direction of a drunken drag queen shouting abuse at a rival, and the second piece is too short for the performers to make much of an impression, the four in Quartet - Ava Burton, Antonia Schnauber, Rohan Quine and David Sayers - are all first-rate.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Three Plays By Heiner Muller - Theatro Technic 2005


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