By Charlotte Lawrence
Das Weben is an incredibly conceptualised piece from start to end. It is a beautifully written piece of drama that creates a modern and unique perspective on the traditional fairy tales that we all grew up with. These traditional tales are woven together seamlessly, which makes for an interesting watch. It is a modern, feminist take that gives power to the traditional female characters that have been objectified throughout history.
Both Lola Stakenburg and Emily Browning (Co-Directors), have created a satisfying piece to watch which is uniquely stylised and filled with a refreshingly different take on the use of physicality. There is constant movement throughout the performance which draws the audience’s attention to every corner of the stage. The feeling of activity that this creates emulates that of a circus and also ensures that the audience is never fully comfortable, which further adds to the atmosphere in the theatre.
This atmosphere is created and maintained by Hannah Lydon who is the perfect Ringmaster. She commands the stage, the story, and the audience, acting as the glue that holds the cast and piece together. She uses her voice in such a way that immediately demands the entire attention of the audience from when you first hear it coming from offstage. From there, Lydon continues to hold the attention and control the story- to the extent that she even has the power to dictate when the audience claps, which is an inventive way to gain audience interaction.
The power that Lydon has on stage is emulated through the stage setting and the lighting. Levels and props are used effectively and with a purpose to aid the understanding of each character, with both the Ringmaster and The Twisted Prince (Horatio Holloway), never entering the cages -which are used to block out centre stage- and with Lydon being the only character to hold centre stage for a significant amount of time. Spotlights are used in a traditional and modern way which makes for a fascinating stage set-up. The lighting used also carries the colour motif of the piece, with red, warm white and harsh white enhancing the stage set-up and the atmosphere of the piece as a whole through its cohesiveness that added to the conceptualisation of the performance. Whilst the overall use of production was effective, the use of sound could’ve been improved. The sound overpowered those speaking when it was playing over dialogue. The actor performing became the background sound although it is appreciated that this may have been a technical issue. Moreover, the four cages enable the other characters to take the power back from the Ringmaster in a constructive manner, in their own story. These cages, much like the characters that they encapsulate, never leave the stage which reinforces the notion that not only are all their stories intertwined with one another but that their story is never really over.
On this point, Maariya Khalid, Scarlett Clarke, Hanna Wright and Stakenburg never break from their role once (despite remaining on stage for the full duration of the play). They remain active whilst allowing each other to shine in their given moments- with the exception of Wright who stole the show even when stuck in a cage in the background. The constant activity that happens throughout creates the feeling of a realistic circus, that is buzzing with unhinged energy. Wright really aided with this, her use of movement and eye contact was so unnatural that it kept this energy up for the whole piece. Her unexpected change in pace and pitch when she spoke added to the intentional uncomfortable atmosphere as she was so unpredictable in her performance in a nuanced way.
Das Weben lives up to its English translation of the weaving, in a conceptualised and modern way. The physicality of this piece makes it a unique watch that captivates the audience from start to finish. It has a great flow, complete with jolts of action that enable the continuation of the wanted uncomfortable feeling. It is a play that really changes one’s perspective of traditional fairy tales in an interactive and eccentric way.
Image credit: Wrong Tree Theatre Company