From Morning to Midnight - Opera Centre (NSW)
Written by Georg Kaiser, in a new version by Dennis Kelly. Directed by Eugene Lynch.
Reviewed By Kate Gaul
Warwick Fairfax Studio at The Opera Centre
Until 22nd July, 2023
- Continuing the trend of shows that focuses on man's relationship with machine, it's an odd piece to contemporise but is visually a feast -
From Morning to Midnight by Georg Kaiser, is among the most frequently performed German Expressionist works, charts the life of a cashier who steals money from the bank and flees to Berlin. The un-named clerk's decision to escape his middle-class daily life is ultimately frustrated. It is a popular piece in which Kaiser satirized the cheapness and futility of modern society. His hero, a kind of machine-age Everyman, searches everywhere for some kind of fulfilment - in commercial sex and salvationist religion - but discovers through a series of nightmarish episodes that the world is deceitful and illusory. Surprise, Surprise! In the end, disillusioned and pursued by the police, he takes his own life. Or rather he falls strangely on a crucifix, which blows an electrical circuit. Ironic or tragic? This version by powerhouse British writer Dennis Kelly premiered in London in 2013. Emerging Sydney based company The Other Theatre presents this work in a rehearsal-room-esque style presentation in an actual rehearsal room at the Opera Centre in Surry Hills.
To be honest I found it such a strange choice of work to present. It’s not an easy play. Does it have anything new to reveal to us? But then if I consider the recent Metropolis at Hayes Theatre or even Tales of Hoffmann at Sydney Opera House, perhaps there is something in the air when it comes to re-examining man and machine. As for woman and the machine – well, I think there is still a gap in the market for those stories!
Director Eugene Lynch has assembled an impressive number of recent graduates that more or less fulfill the requirements of a limited vision for this work. Our unnamed Clerk - played here by an earnest Tom Matthews - is giving as good as he can in his portrayal of reckless abandon but there is little to work against. He never encounters real debauchery or portrays genuine greed. These aspects of the play – which should be horrifying to us – are presented to us as ideas and remain academic. It’s all rather coy. Perhaps a more confident sense of style could have gotten around the more salacious requirements of the play. More easily to connect with is the portrayal of the daily grind from which he escapes – mechanised, grim faces and automaton-like movement gives way to his adventure with the arrival of an attractive Italian woman. There’s more than a touch of misogyny about the entire thing which is part of the original text but needs specific consideration by contemporary directors.
It is thrilling to make the journey to an unusual and repurposed space to see the work.
Others in the cast who deserve a shout-out - the ever reliable and inventive Lib Campbell makes the most of several roles – not least the persecuted wife and mother. She’s a hoot in some of the satiric gender non-specific roles. Anna Clark is a talent to seek out and dominates the stage whenever she appears. KandiceJoy creates a resonant presence as the still and persistent Salvation Army Woman who presides over a final limbo land. Characterisation is supported by numerous costume changes (designer Benedict Janeczko-Taylor). Lighting design by Daniel Story is elegant in its simplicity and smartly provides the necessary shifts of atmosphere with the story.
It is thrilling to make the journey to an unusual and repurposed space to see the work. At a solid two hours this is an ambitious undertaking and all power to The Other Theatre for bringing the play to our attention.
I am a changed man! I have sixty thousand marks and I’m going to decide for myself what is and isn’t pointless so to hell with you!
Performed in Sydney for the first time in a century, with a cast of 15 actors, The Other Theatre presents Georg Kaiser’s landmark expressionist play from 13 – 22 July.
Wake-up, work, sleep. Repeat.
So goes each day for a bank clerk. One day a woman from Florence comes into the bank. She accidentally touches the clerk’s hand. Inflamed by the presence of the Florentine visitor, he steals 60,000 marks from the bank and deserts his family. The Clerk scours the city in a desperate search for an experience worth buying and a reason for living.
From Morning to Midnight is presented by The Other Theatre.
Where 480 Elizabeth St Surry Hills NSW 2010 AustraliaWarwick Fairfax Studio @ The Opera Centre
When Thursday 13 July from 7:30pm to 9pm Friday 14 July from 7:30pm to 9pm Saturday 15 July from 7:30pm to 9pm Wednesday 19 July from 7:30pm to 9pm Thursday 20 July from 7:30pm to 9pm Friday 21 July from 7:30pm to 9pm Saturday 22 July from 7:30pm to 9pm
Cost General Admission: $30Concession: $25Under 30s: $25