Photography by Gez Xavier Mansfield
pantsguys Productions and atyp Selects presents MR KOLPERT by David Gieselmann, translated by David Tushingham, at the atyp studio, Wharf 4, Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay.
MR KOLPERT by David Gieselmann, translated by David Tushingham is a black comedy written in 2000, from Germany.
A couple Ralph Droht (Tim Reuben) and Sarah Kenner (Claire Lovering) live in a sparely furnished apartment, so spare, in this production, that it has only one door(!) - which did cause some architectural problems for the audience, trying to sort out the front door from the living room, bathroom, internal apartment doors etc - ignoring the writer's, Mr Gieselmann's instructions - and features a large, supposedly, antique trunk (Set and Costume Design is by Antoinette Barboutis -from experience, I've found, that ignoring and or altering a writer's floorplan and demands, especially for comedy, even more especially, for farce, is done at great risk and courts an imminent disaster.) They have invited Edith Mole (Paige Gardiner) and Bastian Mole (Garth Holcombe) over for dinner, but have no food in the house. They decide that buying in pizza will do, since the reason for having the guests over, is to have them as 'entertainment' - in a kind of 'get the guest' game like Martha and George's games in Edward Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?. They, indeed, welcome their guests with:
"Come in. We've loads of room. There's nothing here but a dead body."Now, there is a welcoming entrance line! The dead body may be in the trunk! - the Patrick Hamilton play, ROPE, with its Nietzsche UBERMENSCH (Superman) theories comes to mind. This trunk, however, emanates loud knocking noises, so, is there a live body in the trunk?
We never get to solve the knocking, for we later discover the trunk is empty, and the body of Mr Kolpert, is, instead, in the refrigerator! Surreal black comedy/or, supernatural noises, then? Comic word games involving numbers and an hilarious pizza-ordering routine. The watching of the bloody murdering of three people, one, accompanied with an 'horrific' cannibalistic 'ballet' and pop song lip-syncing - boy, Mr Tarantino and his RESERVOIR DOGS have a lot to answer for, homage is sometimes just too gratuitous! don't you think? Then, the ultimate sight of three naked living, breathing bodies.The 'magic' hokum of shifts into mysterious UV-lighting (Lighting Design by Benjamin Brockman), and add directed mayhem from this production, performed in 2D, by most of the actors, and one is bludgeoned, forced to ask: WHY?
Why has pantsguys thought this is a play we need to see? Why am I sitting here at atyp, watching this production of this play, in 2014? First seen in 2003, in a production for the Sydney Theatre Company (STC), directed by Benedict Andrews, this production feels, strangely, outmoded, outdated. The world of theatre, cinema, home x-box games, in fact, real life-live contemporary atrocities, have continued to surpass the dramaturgy of this play. The experience of this production caused me to think the only reason pantsguys had to to perform MR KOLPERT was because they can and they want to. That they want to is in the proof that this pudding-production exists. That they can, is debatable.
The moral of the play is, perhaps, that our society has reached an evolving state of numbness, where such bloody games have become a 'normal' part of our society - accepted by us, as unshockingly normal, and are now, simply, an hilarious black-comic entertainment. That stripped naked we are just vulnerable animals, capable of really silly, extreme things - ha,ha! (Interesting, I thought, that in the play text, Mr Gieselmann has the perpetrators of all this 'post modern' behaviour not only naked but "weeping" at the end - this group of actors did not finish that way. Naked, yes - shock and horror! - despite the banality of the over usage of that metaphor in recent Sydney theatre presentations - e.g. EIGHT GIGABYTES OF HARDCORE PORNOGRAPHY - but not weeping). If the intellectual seriousness of this writing had been a more apparent spine for the choices of this production there may have been a more palatable balance to the offers from this team of artists. The laughs seemed to be the principal focus of the actors actions and really were not often enough to ever sustain one's care or interest.
James Dalton, who seems to have a morbid obsession with stage blood and gore - A BUTCHER OF DISTINCTION, a much more interesting excursion into this territory by him - directs MR KOLPERT, so that Mr Holcombe seems to overpitch; Ms Gardiner overplay; Mr Reuben, underplay, and Ms Lovering, and Eden Lacey, as The Pizza Man, to play, relatively, well - he gives the most satisfying performance of the night, he seems to bring dimension to his creation - a human being, not a cartooned, shallow caricature. Unfortunately, on the night I attended, the corpse of Mr Kolpert, impersonated by Tom Christopherson, came to life, and was seen to assist his delivery into the trunk, undermining the gruesome efforts of his bloody body paint, that indicated his demise.
I did not have a good time watching this production. So bemused was I, that I borrowed the play text to try to discover why. However, I did not enjoy reading the play either, so maybe this work is just not my cup of tea. There is apparent and considerable effort going on here from all the artists, but too no arrest of my aesthetic. Some of you might find otherwise. Take a chance and debate it. I did enjoy the nonsense of Mr Gieselmann's THE PIGEONS, up at the Griffin a few years back.