The opening production for HOME teams Director Walter Meierjohann (Romeo and Juliet) with Simon Stephens, one of our greatest playwrights (and who adapted Curious Incident), to put on a modern adaptation of Kasimir and Karoline by Ödön von Horváth. The original dates from 1929 and deals with the effect of economic recession and the rise of the right. What we end up with at HOME is a play that is relevant to Manchester today, relevant to the economic times we are living through, and relevant to who we are.
The new HOME theatre is a superb venue with fantastic sight lines, and a huge, versatile stage. Ti Green’s design works brilliantly for this production and makes the most of the space. Think live band in the side wall, rotating centre stage, projections on a movable curtain for scene changes, and huge vertical openings in the rear wall. It’s a big space to fill and keeping large numbers of people on stage both creates atmosphere and reinforces the theme of helplessness.
Ben Batt and Katie Moore are talented actors who create convincing central characters who are thrown apart by the recession. Behind them are an array of extremes of character, not all of whom work perfectly, but who together create a landscape that makes this play intensely surreal and memorable. It is the feeling created by the freak show, by the fairground rides, by the injury line, by the carousel of legs, that works with the text to drive the emotional journey of the play.
Simon Stephens’ text is effective and has some truly inspired moments, although perhaps too pared down for the characters to really develop in the way his own plays would have allowed them to do.
Above all, what marks this production out from anything else is Walter Meierjohann’s directing, which is brave, ambitious and different to what you would normally see in a Manchester theatre. The production is innovative and exciting; if that’s how you like your theatre then this play is definitely not one to miss.
There are talented people in the HOME set up, and this venue marks the start of something very exciting in Manchester.
Funfair is at HOME until 13 June.Follow @quietmandave