The Robbers @ New Diorama Theatre, London – February 2014

The Faction’s ever-ambitious endeavours to unearth and breathe youthful interpretation into little-known classics continue with this remount of Schiller’s The Robbers, currently playing in rep with Hamlet and Thebes at the New Diorama.

Written by Schiller at the tender age of twenty-one and translated from 18th century German into modern day speak by director Mark Leipacher and actor/writer Daniel Millar, this is an exciting contemporary take on a debut that brought its playwright overnight success. Leipacher’s dark, “Tarantinoesque” production makes no attempt to hide, and in fact makes every effort to underline, that this is the work of a very young man.

Revolving around the grizzly conflict between two aristocractic brothers, Karl and Franz Moor, the plot twists, turns and weaves together the challenging themes of sibling rivalry, paternity, family rifts, manipulation, forgiveness and gang culture. This new translation does not lose any of Schiller’s emotional language and the depiction of his vision of copious violence is both fast-paced and imaginative. Boys and their dangerous toys dominate the proceedings, rampaging at times into invigorating theatrical climaxes which are clearly designed to shock.

Sometimes there is a little too much loud shooting for comfort, but the various sequences of criminal warfare showcase perfectly the Faction’s talent for working an ensemble and make for some excellent choreography and lighting effects. Especially memorable are the red filters. The use of chalk at the back of the stage is also a very nice touch, pervading the minimalist backdrop, providing an ever-fixed reminder of the demonic thoughts of gang members and harking back to the traditional blackboard as a means of communication.

I have to admit I found it difficult to empathise with any of this play’s characters, but this is not to say that there was not some great acting. Cary Crankson is as smooth and charismatic as ever as Spiegelberg, arguably one of the true villains of the piece as he attempts to overthrow and outdo the leader of the gang. Andrew Chevalier’s Franz, arguably the other true villain, although a little hammy at times, manages convincing, vile contempt for his father and absent brother and depicts both physical and emotional deformity admirably throughout.

The Robbers runs at the New Diorama until 22nd February.

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