Tag: Beng Oh

REVIEW: George Tabori’s MEIN KAMPF

Bold and confronting comedy

By Myron My

The farce Mein Kampf revolves around Hitler’s younger years as a man who is struggling to become an artist (and to secretly take over the world – including New Zealand). In Vienna, he meets a well-educated, bible selling Jewish man Shlomo Herzl, and through this chance encounter, chaos ensues. Written in 1987 by George Tabori – himself a survivor of the holocaust – it is somewhat autobiographical yet it is also a complete fabrication, and knowing this really sets the mood quite fittingly for Mein Kampf.

Mein Kampf

The three leads; Mark Wilson (Shlomo), Glenn van Oosterom (Hitler) and Mark Bonanno (Lobkowitz) are just phenomenal. Their comedy timing is impeccable and their superb facial expressions and physicality are a testament to the skills and dedication they have brought to the roles. The three of them ensure that every line they deliver is with utter conviction. Wilson is on stage for the whole show – nearly 2 hours – and there is not one scene where he wavers or his energy lowers in this demanding role. Van Oosterom is most impressive as the man with the short and fiery temper, especially when he threw himself into one of his many angry speech-giving tirades the vehemence of which would turn the character’s face red from frustration.

The humour in Mein Kampf is used not to poke fun at the atrocities that occurred under Hitler’s regime but behind the entertainment, we are reminded of the tragedy. Shlomo attempts to persuade Hitler to get into politics and later Hitler comments he will purchase Shlomo a gift: an oven, so he can keep warm.  Tabori famously wants us to recognise that the holocaust and events surrounding it “are taboos that must be broken or they will continue to choke us”. The writing is sharp and witty, and despite its plentiful laughs there are poignant moments in the script with dark forebodings of what’s to come. There are a couple of times where the momentum did get lost ever so slightly, including when Frau Death (Uschi Felix) comes to visit and a long scene between Shlomo and his love Gretchen (Stephania Pountney).

I really enjoyed Mein Kampf as I am a firm believer in the idea of there being comic value in everything and through humour we can be educated and informed. The cast were flawless and the laughs kept coming. However – and this is where I feel quite conflicted – there were about ten minutes where I was left morally dubious and extremely uncomfortable. I’m a vegetarian and I don’t impose this view on others but in one scene, a dead chicken is brought on stage and hacked up and drained of its blood with various parts being ripped out, all  by Himmlisch, a young Himmler (Samuel Macdonald). It may have been dead, but I was still shocked and disgusted at seeing this and it really dampened my whole experience of this otherwise impressive performance. I feel that as a theatre production, there should be other creative and more sophisticated ways of conveying these visuals and ideas.

Nonetheless, director Beng Oh has done a great job in putting this production together and the importance of having Mein Kampf performed is highlighted with what has been occurring in the world recently. Even after all these years it is very easy for society to discriminate and be hateful towards people because of perceived differences. The absurdity of Tabori’s play succeeds in insisting that we don’t forget, and more importantly, don’t allow anything like those events to happen again.

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street Carlton
Season: Until 25 August | Wed-Sat 8:30pm, Sun 6:30pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc
Bookings: http://lamama.com.au or 9347 6142

REVIEW: True Love Travels on a Gravel Road

Exciting new theatre is right on track

By Christine Moffat

True Love Travels On A Gravel Road is billed as a comedy-drama, but this interesting new work leans more towards a modernised tragic-farce romance.  This is by no means a bad thing.The play was entertaining, funny and surprisingly moving.

True Love Travels - Photos by Sophie Dewhirst and Glenn van Oosterom

The key to this work succeeding (and it does) is the skilful collaboration of writer Jane Miller and director Beng Oh.  With the assistance of a very capable cast, they have created a world where the characters can exist and be real.  These characters rely heavily on classical theatre archetypes and as a result are all slightly larger than life, leading to many comic moments.  Interestingly though, they are also well-drawn human beings, especially demonstrated through the use of everyday dialogue which on the whole made them very relatable. The set (by Christina Logan-Bell) is a stylised, neutral-coloured corrugated iron shed, allowing the location to be anywhere at any time.  This clever device results in some great plot reveals that could have been pre-empted if the set had given too much away.

The stand-out performances on opening night were by Elizabeth McColl (Glenda), David Kambouris (Richard) and Glenn van Oosterom (Jake).  All of these actors pushed the scope of their performances to the outer edge of realism, but their risk paid off with three of the most affecting characters in both the comic and dramatic moments.  That being said, all performances were strong.  The entire ensemble filled the piece with energy and emotion, and the audience responded positively to every character.

Unfortunately this reviewer feels that by inserting an interval at a critical point in the action the sense of tension was lost, and it took time to regain that atmosphere once the show recommenced.  The play is roughly standard length (90 minutes), and modern audiences are well accustomed to sitting through an entire performance without interval.  The production is compelling enough to risk removing the interval to keep its pace, for overall, True Love Travels on a Gravel Road is inventive and fresh, and a great blend of comedy and pathos.

Venue: fortyfive downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Season dates: 17 May to 2 June 2013

Show times: Tues – Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm

Tickets: $37 Full, $30 Conc, $33 Group 6+

Bookings:      03 9662 9966