Sunday, 8 August 2010

Danton's Death - a little predictable but worth a watch

Any true theatre (and film) geek like myself needs get no further than Toby Stephens' name on the cast list (which as the protagonist of this piece happens to be the first) to decide that this play is worth seeing and indeed with that incentive as well as the fame of this Buchner play and the bonus of it being as little as £10 means that no-one has an excuse not to watch this superb actor strut his nonchalent frown on the boards.

The play itself is traditionally set in its era of the French Revolution and although Toby Stephens inevitably steals the show with his, by turns, feckless and vulnerable portrayal of a man amist social choas whose friends slowly turn to foes, a few words must be said for at least one member of the supporting cast, Elliot Levey, who plays Robespierre.  Levey's portrayal of 'L'Incorruptible' is so finely balanced between the moral drive to see the Revolution through to its bloody conclusion and hesitation to condemn former comrades that he manages to elicit a grudging sympathy from a play which seems determined to condemn the radical(ity?) of such determined revolutionaries.
The one true failure of this play is the complete sidelining of female characters who, true to early nineteenth century form, are merely portrayed as male props; wives and whores who await their revolutionary men at home (or in the bordello).  Although this treatment is, perhaps, to be expected from a 1835 play Grandage, the director, does little to remedy or circumvent such stereotypes.
Nevertheless, all in all a gripping play of how social upheaval can rip apart friends who once fought side-by-side, runs until October 14th.


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