29 April 2016

Emilia Galotti at The Space was engrossing drama well presented

I am on a lot of theatre emailling lists and I found out about Emilla Galotti from the production company, Ottisdotter, having subscribed to their newsletters after seeing their The Feast at Solhaug at Baron's Court Theatre last year. That was enough of a recommendation to make me want to see this.

The other attraction was that it was at a new theatre for me, The Space in the Isle of Dogs. The location proved to be something of a challenge partially because of my error and partially because the CityMapper app was being unhelpful. I got to Canary Wharf on the Jubilee Line easily enough but then I made the mistake of going the last leg by bus rather than walking.

I got on the right bus (135) but got off it to early because of the app and then I got on another right bus (D3) but heading in the wrong direction so I got off in Limehouse and waited a couple of minutes for another D3 heading back the other way. This time I got off at the correct stop which, helpfully, included "The Space" in its name and was right next to the theatre.

The Space was in a very attractive former church from the Victorian period. The theatre was downstairs and upstairs was the Hubbub cafe/bar where I headed first. Thanks to the extra time I had spent on busses there was no time for a proper meal but the bowl of thick chips (more like wedges) and small plate of fried halloumi did the job. The pint of beer was much appreciated too.

I had been told that the doors to the theatre would open at 7:20 so just before then I made my way downstairs, out of the side door and round to the front where the theatre entrance was.

The interior looked more like a church hall than a church with the seats arranged in two rows along the two long sides, leaving the middle of the room empty, and a slightly raised dais at the far end.

The action started on the dais with a prince signing some papers in a casual manner. Then an obsequient painter came in to show the prince two portraits he had just completed, one was of Countess Orsina who the the prince was going out with at that time, though he had not seen her for a little while, and the other was of Emilia Galotti who the prince was beginning to fall in love with.

Having decided that we was in love with Emilia the prince then had the alarming news that she was due to be married that day. His aid, Marinelli, said that he had a plan to help the prince and the prince agreed without knowing the details. The story developed nicely from there and I was keen to see how it would all turn out, though a happy ending was never that likely.

The heart of the play was the scheming by Marinelli and Andrew Nance was excellent as the loyal but somewhat malevolent aid to the hapless and easily led prince. Equally good was Francesca Burgoyne as the wronged Countess Orsina and my highlight of the play was the confrontation between the two of them early in the second half of the play.

I was also impressed by Lucy Pickles as Emillia's mother, not least because she convincing played somebody much older than herself. It was also one of the more emotional roles as she got caught up in Marinelli's plans. The rest of the cast were all good and each characters was well defined, distinct and believable.

The staging worked well too with most of the action happening in the middle of the hall right in front of me and good use being made of all the entrances at either end. Few props were used, or needed, and that is just how I like it.

The story was appropriately tense, dramatic and a little tragic with some nice touches of humour along the way, especially from the prince's silliness.

Emilia Galotti was superb theatre in all aspects and was well worth the effort it took to get there to see it. It is easy to forget as we celebrate Shakespeare that other historical playwrights wrote good things that are still worth watching today.

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