Travesties

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Travestiesdir Lotte Wakeham27 to 29 OctoberO’ReillyLosing one revolution may be regarded as a misfortune, but to lose two seems like carelessness”.Such epigrams may never have been delivered by Lenin, but in the mismatched memories of British consulate Henry Carr, wartime politics take a determined turn for the Wilde, as the boundaries between art and life, perception and reality fall away in hilarious Stoppardian fashion.Travesties plunges us into Carr’s patchy recollections of Zurich, 1917, where the paths of Lenin, James Joyce and Dadaist artist Tristan Tzara briefly converge within the framework of a production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Wakeham’s production is set among the half-remembered, half-filled bookcases of Zurich Public Library, where faces peering through gaps in the shifting shelves suggest the political espionage of wartime Europe and the hazy acquaintances drifting through Carr’s memory. It is quickfire wordplay that Stoppard does best, and the cast here manage admirably with the demands of the play’s complex verbal jousting.Jack Hawkins, as the dandyish Carr, is a commanding presence, his urbane Englishness juxtaposed perfectly with the avantgarde excesses of his revolutionary peers. Particularly impressive are the exchanges between Hawkins and Stewart Pringle’s Tzara, where witty dialogues on the function of art move seamlessly into powerful meditations on the morality of war. It is in such juxtapositions that this production excels: the cast revel in the dualities of their characters, drifting between the real and the fantastical, the remembered and the imagined. Max Pritchard is hilarious as an impish James Joyce, and Charlotte Cox is similarly impressive in her delightful portrayal of Cecily. Her coquettish exchanges with Hawkins and subsequentstriptease provide some of the more comically surreal moments in which the play really finds its energy.The cast do an excellent job in sustaining an air of spontaneity in Stoppard’s selfconsciously ‘intelligent nonsense’, knowingly navigating the complexities of modernism, Dadaismand Wildean wit with all the necessary vibrancy. ‘The truth’, in true Wilde style, ‘is rarely pure, and never simple’, and Stoppard bends the ‘truth’ to his own fascinating and hilarious ends.ARCHIVE: 2nd week MT 2005

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