I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
Life is born and life is burned in Dresden
Without Richard Wagner's musical drama Rienzi, would we have had Hitler's Nazi Germany? To what extent did Wagner's composition inspire, drive and create the notion of greatness that drove arguably the greatest human tragedy of the modern age? Justin Fleming asks this question in his world premiere performance of the play, Dresden. Presented in the intimate setting of the Kings Cross Theatre by bAKEHOUSE, with Suzanne Millar at the helm, this 85-minute work spans centuries as Wagner narrates his rise to greatness and simultaneously we are exposed to the effect of his greatness on a young Adolf Hitler.
The play itself presents a fascinating link between centuries and historical figures seemingly worlds apart. Conceptually, it's a stellar notion and the seamless transitions from Richard Wagner's world to the world of the young, inspired Hitler are done effectively. It does feel like there may be further opportunity to tighten the screws in parts, but overall it's an interesting and engaging piece with language that is well structured and transcendent of time. Where the play may invite some criticism is potentially in skimming over Wagner's own anti-Semitism, which is mentioned very briefly and downplayed. Where Fleming's piece seems to present Wagner as heroic and Hitler as the anti-hero, the reality is that Wagner, himself, wrote an essay entitled 'Judaism in Music' that cannot be classed as anything less than anti-Semitic. It's an interesting connection to draw between Hitler and the composer, and one that is not fully explored and potentially misrepresented in Dresden.
Suzanne Millar has done a fabulous job translating this epic work to stage, and her ability to create a world that feels vast and wondrous in a space as small as the KXT is inspired. Her deft hand is supported by a spectacularly simple, yet effective set by Patrick Howe and a powerful lighting design by Benjamin Brockman. The design team is rounded out with stellar work by sound designer Max Lambert, whose use of operatic scoring creates a lot of the dramatic tension and notions of glory in the play.
Yalin Ozucelik has the incredibly daunting task of tackling one of the most recognisable (and hated) people in history, Adolf Hitler, and brings an inspired performance to the stage. Not an inch of Ozucelik's performance is caricature or cartoony; he perfectly captures the volatility and nuance of Hitler without ever crossing into an impersonation. In short, it's a top shelf performance. Jeremy Waters doesn't fare as well as Richard Wagner. His Richard Wagner just doesn't match the nuanced performance of Ozucelik and as a result feels inauthentic and staged. His relationship with Renee Lim as the love of his life feels stale and cold; there is no romance here, only vague familiarity. Lim also is found wanting in the role of Cosima, although to be honest, it's not a role that really gives Lim many moments to shine as she follows Wagner around scribing his memoirs. For the most part, she is relegated to nodding and transcribing, throwing in the odd question.
Ben Wood delivers an empathy-filled performance as Hitler's friend Gustal, the conflict in him evident between supporting his friend and sensing the danger ahead. Thomas Campbell and Dorje Swallow support the action in a variety of roles beautifully, with Swallow especially shining in his interpretation of the conductor of Rienzi and the King who bails Wagner out of debt.
There are limited opportunities remaining to catch this world premiere performance as it must close on 30th June. Tickets are available from www.kingsxtheatre.com
Emma attended this production as a guest of bAKEHOUSE Theatre.