Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Address Unknown" - May 2010

I've taken a couple of days to mull this one over as I suspected my initial response to it had been too strong. I feared that my immediate enthusiasm for the play would quickly diminish once the 'high' of the satisfying ending began to wear off.

But two nights later, I'm more impressed than ever with the layers of subtlety displayed here and the direct questions it raised for me. As a byproduct of this, what I'm about to say here will include significant plot points that we would not normally disclose when posting our thoughts on a show. If you've stumbled across this because you are planning to see the show or read the short story on which it is based, it's probably best you read no further.

The Tron's production of Katharine Kressmann Taylor's tale is part of their Mayfesto season of what I will crudely label as political theatre and takes the form of an exchange of letters between two German friends in the early 1930s. Max and Martin jointly own an art gallery in San Francisco, but Martin has recently returned home to Germany, leaving his Jewish partner Max to run the business. Through their letters we witness the impact the rise of Nazism has on them individually and the toll it takes on their friendship.

The text used here has been edited for the theatre by Frank Dunlop and is magnificently crafted. After only the first letter is read I believed in this friendship entirely and as the exchanges develop they always ring true, remaining anchored by those first moments of affection. Of course, a large part of that credibility is due to Benny Young and James MacPherson as Max and Martin giving immensely powerful performances which downplay any moments of melodrama.

For a while I felt the ending was too self-satisfying and that neither the subject nor the audience deserved to be left on a (relatively) positive note. But actually, I think for me this is the greatest revelation and salutary lesson of the play. I'm now horrified by how content, even pleased, I was to see a man being taken, presumably to his death. And more than learning anything about the characters and their circumstances, I've gained an invaluable insight into how easily influenced I could find myself in the right (wrong) situation. I don't think I've ever been quite so personally disconcerted by a play as I was by this.

A truly powerful and memorable piece of theatre.

We received our tickets for the show through our membership of the Tron's Patrons scheme which we thoroughly recommend for anyone who is a regular attendee at the Tron.

Address Unknown runs at the Tron until Saturday 22nd May
Image by John Johnston used with permission.