Don Carlos by Friedrich Schiller, translation by Robert David MacDonald
Rose Theatre Kingston
Rose Theatre, Kingston - 10 November 2018
Moths Pinned in the Light
by Friedrich Schiller, translation by Robert David MacDonald
ARA, Exeter Northcott, Nuffield Theatres and RTK Co-production at Rose Theatre, Kingston until 17th November
A review by Mark Aspen
Shadows, moths flitting around a flame, afraid of the dark, but afraid of getting burnt. This is the atmosphere of the dark and edgy version of Schiller’s masterpiece now running at Kingston’s Rose Theatre.
Schiller’s tragedy, which he completed in Dresden in 1787 having incurred the displeasure of various authorities in other parts of Germany, is loosely based on historical events in Spain in the 1560’s during the reign of King Philip II. History’s verdict on Philip is to paint him as a tyrant, and it was from this viewpoint that Schiller wrote his play, with some prescience as it was two years before the storming of the Bastille ignited the French Revolution and stirred revolutionary furore throughout Europe. Schiller himself knew of the dangers of messing with authority.
The Rose production invites us to draw parallels with modern times worldwide, and designer Rosanna Vize has taken a scorched-earth approach to the piece, stripping out set, scenery, costume and mannerisms that would fix it in the 16th Century, or indeed in any century. Her stated idea is that “details … distract from the bigger picture” and the story can be told “with the bare bones of what is required”. In practice this means that she has abdicated the design to the lighting designer Jonathan Samuels, whose harsh un-gelled lanterns inhabit the stage like silent actors. Startling at first, I must admit that the stark lighting design grew on me. We have a vast minimalist and monochrome design that counterintuitively creates a stifling feeling of claustrophobia. The human actors, the protagonists in Schillers’ dense plot, are pinned to their places by the lamps of the lantern-actors, like moths to a museum display board. I later realised that the mise-en-scene is that of the “Black Paintings” of (Schiller’s contemporary) Goya’s later Quinta del Sordo period, foreboding, melancholy, threatening: Goya at his darkest.
Read Mark Aspen’s full review at www.markaspen.wordpress.com/2018/11/08/don-carlos
Photography by Michael Wharley Photography
Don Carlos by Friedrich Schiller, translation by