THE PRINCE OF HOMBURG
Lyric Hammersmith, London W6
Opened 28 February, 2002

**** Puzzling, but always compelling, slice of German Romanticism

Neil Bartlett's sparse treatment of Kleist's play about love and Prussian militarism has no answers, but the uncertainties are gripping.

Part of the visual effect may have been due to my being seated in the circle: Rae Smith's bare design, of black uniforms and costumes on a dark stage, creates remarkable images when seen from above, giving an impression of unreality and dream which some or all of the story may indeed be.

The Prince is discovered sleepwalking on the eve of a major battle. His fervent passion for Natalie, Princess of Orange, spurs him on to disregard his monarch's orders - he wins the battle, but is sentenced to death for disobedience. Will the grand Romantic spirit win out, or will Prussian rectitude lead him to accept his sentence? Things remain uncertain right to the end, and indeed beyond.

James Laurenson's portrayal of the ruling Elector is perfectly pitched, blending human concern with that particular strain of aristocratic obligation; he is all but matched by Tanya Moodie as Natalie. Dan Fredenburgh's Prince rides an emotional switchback which at times places him in the territory of Measure For Measure. Will Keen, as his adjutant, is at once loyal and sinister it's like having Iago on the side of good. Not a neglected classic, but a fascinating curio.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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