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BEAUTIFUL, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THEATRE

Print Version

NZ Fringe Festival 09
Wolf’s Lair
Devised by Sophie Roberts and Willem Wassenaar
Directed by Willem Wassenaar
Performed by Sophie Roberts

at The Basement, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
From 26 Feb 2009 to 7 Mar 2009

Reviewed by Candice Lewis, 27 Aug 2009


The lone figure of Traudl Junge (Sophie Roberts) is hunched in a plain chair, and the floor sparkles with a seaweed sea of brown tape. Piles of large, old style reels sit on the floor, and to her left is a clunky old recording device. She wears a flawless, well-cut black dress, bends down and presses play, sharing the quiet voice of her youth.

These recordings allow both aspects of Junge to be interwoven: the young woman who longed to be a ballerina; the mature one struggling with regret and sadness at being Adolf Hitler's personal secretary.

Robert's performance focuses all my attention. She is a young, beautiful innocent just wanting to have an adventure in Berlin, then an arrogant, worn down woman of the world haunted by a corpse-littered past. She is bright and blank, then rippling with pain and regret, her face conjuring up members of Hitler's inner circle with a mixture of love and horror.

I feel how impressed she is by the power, wealth and privileges of her surroundings, how kind her boss is to her, perhaps an indication of her longing for a tangible father figure. I am not repelled by her; her admissions loosen the face-tightening mask, and as it drops we find ourselves.

I do not mean that this somehow excuses Junge, but I do think it casts light on our motivations and fragile humanity. Devised by Willem Wassenaar and Sophie Roberts, it is unquestionably beautiful, thought-provoking theatre.

Wassenaar also directs, and obviously knows what he's doing. Roberts movements seesaw between grace and grief-stricken robot. In doing so we are always reminded of her missed opportunities, to be a dancer, or perhaps a heroine.

The cast and crew of this Almost A Bird Theatre Collective production have done an amazing job. The sound design (Thomas Press), lighting and sound operation (Sam Bunkall), and costume construction (Rebekah Coburn) are all flawless.
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 John Smythe
 Laurie Atkinson (The Dominion Post);
 Lynn Freeman (Capital Times);
 Thomas LaHood
 Laurie Atkinson (2) (The Dominion Post);
 Uther Dean (Salient);

Comments

Editor posted 27 Aug 2009, 12:50 PM / edited 1 Sep 2009, 12:00 AM
 

To explain why her review is a day late, Candice tells this story: 

I am 15 minutes early for this play, and am impressed by the high proportion of German folk festively milling about.

After clearing up some confusion about getting in, I forget to grab a programme. The first scene opens with a creepy dance by young people wearing feathered masks. This must be a Nazi death dance; it's so cold and calculated, yet it also strives for a semblance of eroticism.

As the play unfolds in fluent German, and a sparkling young woman calls out ‘Don Juan!' from a balcony, I realise something is very fucking wrong. I sit agog for 30-odd minutes, wondering if this is a long, clever introduction on the subject of Hitler's last secretary …

The usher is seated to my left, and after some urgent whispering I look at her programme, and my fears are confirmed. I'm in the wrong theatre, watching The German Drama Company present Don Juan. In an opportune darkened moment, I escape.  After much walking in the rain, wishing I hadn't worn vintage high heeled boots, and slightly hysterical tears, I hope the Wolf's Lair group will forgive me. They do, and I return the following night …

I do hope the audiences from the German Don Juan come along to Wolf's Lair. There are no feather masks, but you are in for one very interesting dance.