Accidental Productions. Bakehouse Theatre – 1 to 16 Jul.
Innocence is the story of fourteen different characters told (in this production) by ten actors. The show opens on Elisio and Fadoul, two illegal immigrants who consider their own fate when they see a woman drowning. Elisio wants to save her, but his indecision and Fadoul’s reluctance find her disappearing into the wash of the ocean. Her death begins Elisio’s insomnia. Frau Habersatt, and ageing woman insistent on seeking forgiveness for crimes she did not commit begins forcing her way into the lives of others. Two men sit on the 13th floor of the suicide tower and contemplate taking their own lives, a decision that finally make. Franz and Rosa are husband and wife and Rosa’s mother Frau Zucker has come to live. Franz has just started a new job as an undertaker’s assistant but Zucker holds their relationship back with her neediness and indignation. Absolute is a young blind woman who meets Fadoul at the bus stop on a day when he finds a bag full of money, she dances naked for men who can see her. Fadoul falls in love with her a tries to use the money, a sign from god, for good by paying for surgery to restore her eyesight. Finally, Ella has become disillusioned by the unreliability of the world, a former philosopher she now wishes for the love and attention of her jeweller husband Helmut, only to find disappointment in life. What does it all add up to? It’s a story about the intersections of the lives of some very sad a sorry people, all who wish a return to innocence, to be redeemed.
Writer Dea Loher is considered one of the most influential German playwrights of this century. She has won several awards including the Berthold Brecht Award for Literature and the Mühlheim Drama Prize, and has a style which is both poetic and theatrical. For me however this play really took its time to get started.
Each of the actors in their own right gave a satisfactory performance. The direction however seemed to lack a connection with the dialogue which really drew a continuous line through the text. Each scene felt initially fractured and completely separate to the last, which with the added complication of the poetic and revelatory writing, meant the audience had to work very hard to connect with both the character’s individual stories and the underlying message of the piece as a whole. If this was an intentional direction to aid in the Distanciation of the text for the audience it pushed too hard, and left us feeling a little lost and slightly confused.
Ultimately, enduring the first half paid off after interval when the characters’ lives begun to more closely intersect, and some answers (if you can really call them answers) started to emerge.
Jesse Butler delivered one of the most impressive performances as Fadoul. His stage time with both Nic Krieg as Elisio and Samantha Soh as Absolute, were amongst some of the most pleasing moments in the show. Bridget Walters in the role of Frau Zucker and Ann Portus as Frau Habersatt both rose to the occasion and delivered complete and very grounded characterisations. Portus’ erraticism and mental incapacity as Habersatt was particularly stunning. The rest of the cast in Bob Brady, Amy Victoria Brooks, Tim Smith, and Hjálmar Svenna were each good in their roles. Anna Linarello as Ella seemed to have one of the toughest pieces of scripting, and mostly coped valiantly, it wasn’t however always clear that she was entirely confident in her understanding of the text. Long, arduous sections of philosophical writing occasionally became tedious making it difficult to keep focus.
Innocence is a complicated and interesting piece, and a difficult work to approach. A great work for development by Accidental Productions.
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