Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review- Address Unknown- Hong Kong Microfest

"I have to go home and think whether I like the characters or not."- Tom, Over 50
"A striking balance between good/bad, right/wrong"- Amanda, 40
"Thoroughly enjoyed it."- Adam
"Fantastic piece of writing, handled well."- Paul
Tickets still available, get em while they last!
Based on the short novella by American author Kathrine Kressman Taylor, Dunlop's play addresses the issue of the rise of the Nazi occupation in Germany through a series of letters between two childhood friends. One is living in Germany and one in the US. Both are in the art dealing world; oh and the one in the US is a Jew. Giles Burton's company took it upon themselves to bring this horrifying (but in a good way) script to the stage at the McAulay this week. If you don't have tickets yet, get them! I highly recommend this piece to any one with teens, or teachers who are looking for a piece to supplement their syllabus. This is an excellent piece for young adults to see as it doesn't have any cursing, sex jokes and is about an important moment in history that all kids need to learn about in an accessible way.

Starting with the good, I found the set design by Lara Genovese to be incredibly well detailed. I was amazed by all her set dressings and tiny props she set upon the stage that really helped set the stage with this piece, especially  the working antique type writer! This is not the first time we have seen Ms. Genovese split the stage into different worlds, I think this is perhaps her signature on the scene design world in HK. If you need a show in two worlds she is the one to call because she does it brilliantly. My favorite detail in the set is the disintegration in the floor toward the audience. I wish that everything would have been a little more disintegrated.

The two worlds were well established and beautifully designed but it felt a little binding to the blocking. The down stage was hardly used at all. The actors repeatably moved from chair to desk, wash, rinse, repeat. I understood where the design concept came from, I liked the parallels it created for the two world but it did end up catching us into this cycle because the actors didn't have anywhere to go. When the actors finally broke the mold, it was heaven for me! I loved that the sound cut out at this moment and this was where the lighting started going dull. I wish the build to the break through moment would have a larger crescendo to it so that the physical action could have matched the vocal but that is such a tiny detail in what is overall one of the best acted pieces I've seen in Hong Kong in a while.

This is a really hard play to act in. There are only two actors and you're not really acting with each other, more like AT each other. The re-enactment of the letters is a tough thing to keep interesting and differentiate in each scene. Both actors were champions and did excellent jobs at their demise into the gray area. The sadness on Neil's face when the other character was writing letters to destroy him was truly heartbreaking and my favorite moment of the play.

This play raised a lot of questions about the morality of the characters in the play. Do we as an audience have to like any of the characters in a piece to enjoy a play. I personally, thought both the characters were awful people and yet enjoyed the play. As soon as I heard they were art dealers I knew they were going to end up stealing art off the poor people in Germany. (Which is a very gray area to be starting off in- their spiral downward went even lower to even murder and sabotage.)I loved Neil Runcieman's portrayal of Martin, he is the first Nazi character I have ever had affection for, as much as you can and I loved the subtlety of Howard Paley's performance as Max.

It is a slower, subtle piece. I pointed out to some fellow theatre goers tonight that it's the first Nazi piece I have seen sans the swastika. I think that shows how subtle it was. How incredibly slow and delicate they were with the material. They didn't feel the need to slap swastikas all over the set just because of the setting. And I enjoyed that fact. It's not one of those pieces that you're going to come out of going "wow!" because of Artistotle's 6 principals the spectacle is low on their totem pole. But the character and the thematics rang true.

Microfest prides itself on bringing excellent quality, small scale productions to Hong Kong. I thoroughly enjoyed my night with them and really hope you buy a ticket to this show. It's really awesome and as a bonus, it's only an hour and half long so you'll be home by 10 if you have to get up early, like yours truly! BONUS!

My only truly negative comment is that the sound is too loud to hear some of the lines I spent the first scene confused to whether Max or Martin was talking because the radio was too loud. Just bump down the sound a bit and it'll be perfection!

Grade- A+ (Really, it's well done. Go see it!)

Address Unknown plays at the McAulay this week, November 22nd-27th.
You can reach more information at www.microfest.hk

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