Skip to main content

The Last Days of Mankind

Leith Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Alarm bells sound from the off for the official Armistice Day opening of this spectacular tendering of Austrian writer Karl Kraus’ post First World War epic, presented in a brand new translation by Patrick Healy. Opening more than three hours of cartoon-like sketches that make up an explosive Dadaist/Brechtian live art cabaret take on twentieth century history, the bells may be calling time, but they add a sense of urgency to this international co-production that sees the first theatre production in Leith Theatre for almost three decades.

Spearheaded by co-directors John Paul McGroarty of the new Yard Heads company alongside Yuri Birte Anderson of Germany’s Theaterlabor, companies from France, Ireland, Poland and Ukraine take part in a devastatingly cynical take on how the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo set in motion a set of events from which the world is still reeling.

Elites, fake news and a whole lot of other contemporary concerns are all in a mix of physical and musical set-pieces in which two versions of Kraus himself watch proceedings from the tables in the auditorium that conjures up Viennese café society of the era. A cast of thirty play out a series of choreographed tableaux that show off the full ugliness of war through a series of archetypes that highlight the divide between rich opportunists and poor cannon fodder. This is done through a series of stunning images to illustrate the text, just as the mix of archive footage and constructivist collages that form designer Mark Holthusen’s equally striking backdrops do.

 At the heart of this is The Tiger Lillies, the pasty-faced junkyard cabaret trio led by Martyn Jacques, who becomes a grotesquely captivating MC of sorts. With the band onstage throughout, their newly composed set of narrative vignettes sung by Jacques add an even darker layer of malevolence to a show that may be as overwhelmingly fractured as the war that sired it, but leaves its audience quietly shell-shocked by such a mighty theatrical feat.

The Herald, November 12th 2018


ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Art School Dance Goes On Forever – Snapshots Of Masters Of The Multiverse

Intro – Snapshots – Deaf School

1

In 1980, the same year as the Manchester band, Magazine, released a 7
inch single called A Song From Under The Floorboards – a three verse
and chorus distillation of Dostoyevsky's novel, Notes From Underground
– an art school scandal occurred.

This scandal took place in Liverpool, and was based around a project
called the Furbelows, although it became better known in the Liverpool
Echo and other organs that reported it as the Woolly Nudes.

The Furbelows, or Woolly Nudes, were a group of artists who had come
out of Liverpool College of Art, who, dressed in grotesque woolly
costumes which featured knitted approximations of male and female
genitalia, made assorted public interventions around the city centre as
kind of living sculptures acting out assorted narratives.

The Furbelows project had been funded by what was then Merseyside Arts
Association, and, after the participants were arrested and taken to
court on obscenity charges after what…

Peter Brook – The Prisoner

Peter Brook is no stranger to Scotland, ever since the guru of European and world theatre first brought his nine-hour epic, The Mahabharata, to Glasgow in 1988. That was at the city’s old transport museum, which by 1990 had become Tramway, the still-functioning permanent venue that opened up Glasgow and Scotland as a major channel for international theatre in a way that had previously only been on offer at Edinburgh International Festival.
Brook and his Paris-based Theatre des Bouffes du Nord company’s relationship with Tramway saw him bring his productions of La Tragedie de Carmen, La Tempete, Pellease et Mellisande, The Man Who…, and Oh Les Beaux Jours – the French version of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days – to Glasgow.
Thirty years on from The Mahabharata, Brook comes to EIF with another piece of pan-global theatre as part of a residency by Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, which Brook has led since he decamped to Paris from London in the early 1970s. The current Edinburgh residency has alr…

Romeo And Juliet - Shakespeare's Globe Comes to Glasgow

Open-air Shakepeares are a summer-time perennial of the theatre calendar, attracting picnicking audiences as much as midges. More often than not, such romps through the grass are frothy, heritage industry affairs designed to be accompanied by strawberries and cream and not to be taken too seriously. Shakespeare’s Globe theatre company look set to change such perceptions when they open their outdoor tour of Romeo And Juliet in Glasgow next week as part of the West End festival.

For the two young actors taking the title roles of the doomed lovers, it will also be something of a homecoming. Richard Madden and Ellie Piercy both studied in Glasgow prior to turning professional. Indeed, Madden has yet to graduate from the acting course at RSAMD, and, as well as facing the pressures of playing such a meaty role in close proximity to the audience, will have the added anxiety of being assessed and graded by his tutors.

“This is the end of my third year,” says Madden following a Saturday mornin…