Anna Friel is not at all bad in the title role as Wedekind's sex kitten, but overall things don't quite come together.
I realised eventually why I had felt so uneasy through much of the first half. Friel's performance as Lulu is in keeping with the character of someone who defines herself only in terms of her sexual power over particular others: wriggling, slinky, playful but at the same time obviously calculating and calculated. In Nicholas Wright's adaptation, this succeeds in being both alluring and disquieting because the world shown on stage is so amoral – truly amoral, not "immoral". There's a great hole where one expects any kind of moral judgement, however implicit or unconscious. After the interval, we see first her stratagem to have someone commit a murder for her and frame someone else again for it, and then her and her associates' reduction to bitter wistfulness in a squalid London basement before being murdered by Jack the Ripper; there is a kind of motivation here, the moralising side of Wedekind emerges and the play loses much of its power to disturb.
Alan Howard and Tom Georgeson turn in expansive supporting performances, and the Almeida's temporary home (a converted bus depot) works well while its Islington premises are refurbished.
Written for divento.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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