“Though it premièred at the Royal Court, Herr Kolpert is a German play [by David Gieselmann, uncredited in the programme]. Which poses problems for the translator [David Tushingham, similarly overlooked]. Do we stick with the Germans, or shift the whole thing to England – Lavenham gets a surprising name-check – on the assumption that Germans are the same as the English apart from the language. Yasmin Reza’s work suffers from this dilemma – the solution often seems to be more expletives, and Tushingham tends to go the same way.
Richard Dawes’ boldly Absurdist production solves it neatly – the characters are so stylised that we don’t worry about nationality, or whether this is a convincing German architect or an English chaos researcher. What tends to get lost, though, is the unsettling suspicion that manic homicidal violence lies dormant under the most normal of outward appearances. But it makes for great entertainment, with plenty of what the director calls “impact”.
His five actors step confidently up to the mark. Tony Ellis is the waspish Ralf, Kelly McGibney his voluptuous lady in red – both deliver their monologues with style. The “entertainment” for their evening in is to be her co-worker Edith – a wonderfully nervy, mousy character from Jennifer Burchett – and her angry architect partner Tom Tull, “a little forthright, sometimes”, a study in furious thunder. And let’s not forget the Scottish Pizza Girl – a perfect gum-chewing cameo from Ellie Uragallo.
And what of Kolpert himself, the lift-hopping lothario from Accounts ? Well, that would be giving the game away. But things turn darker once the take-away tiramisu hits the fan, with a gob-smacking guignol dénouement.
“Decency? I don’t know what that is,” says Edith as this worm begins to turn. Shades of Orton, I thought, one of many dramatic echoes in the piece: Albee, Hitchcock, Tarantino, even Ayckbourn.
Fine performances and imaginative staging make this a dazzling outing for an obscure one-acter, with an eclectic sound-track, a quirky set [brolly and truncheon on the walls] dramatic lighting and a lovely Hawaiian themed curtain call.”