14 November 2008

Emilia Galotti -- an intriguing experiment

We went to Stratfort, Ontario, last weekend to see a German-language performance of this classic play by Lessing. Stratfort is a really nice location to visit. With a beautiful little Downtown area where the building facades reminded me of a town in the Wild West.
The performance of Emilia Galotti was very unconventional. I think that the company has omitted ninety per cent of the play's text and replaced it by pure acting! And for the most part this actually went well! The play started with what I saw as a sort of overture without any lines spoken and it took about ten minutes to the first scene where the first lines were said.
I am really loving the idea of replacing so much text with nothing but acting, because in those classical plays it is very hard to concentrate on all those long and voluptuous monologues and dialogs anyway. I have to admit, that much of the original work from Lessing is lost, because acting alone does just not convey the same messages as text. For example my friend told me that the original play contains quite a bit of Enlightenment philosophy, of which obviously nothing was obvious in the acting.
However, seeing people act on stage opens up lots of room for imagination! And I think I had enough background knowledge to interprete a lot of things.
My favourite scene was when Gräfin Orsina kisses Marinelli to death. They play it so nicely in three stages which smoothly transform into each other: first Marinelli is surprised by the kiss and frozen, then he slowly thaws and engages in the kiss and finally, you can see you she gradually sucks out all the energy of him and he falls down like an empty, dead body. I don't know which is Lessing's story that was used for this scene, but seeing it is truly impressive and shows how powerful the Gräfin is and how weak Marinelli. Cool!
One thing I didn't like about the performance is the exaggeration of many things, like lines that were delivered way to fast to understand well, or sometimes yelling that was too loud and not justified in my opinion and finally some of the slow movements were so slow that they seemed like endless stills from the balcony seats that we had.
But overall I think that the company's experiment in a "minimal text" performance was successful and worth our visit. Nice, nice!


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