Until Saturday 13 June, 2015
Following a great deal of anticipation from all, the North West’s newest arts centre, HOME – formed by the merger of two of Manchester’s best-loved arts organisations, Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre Company – has finally opened with The Funfair, Simon Stephens’ new version of Ödön von Horváth celebrated 20th century classic, Kasimir and Karoline.
Written just prior to the rise of Germany’s National Socialist regime in 1932, and in the midst of a major economic and political crisis, von Horváth’s source play is essentially a stark, social critique set around Munich’s Oktoberfest, here updated to a travelling funfair in contemporary Manchester, reflecting the similarly uneasy social and political climate of the modern world, raising the question of whether we are all just products of politics.
Ti Green’s evocative design steals the show, instantly immersing us in the dark world of the fairground itself, taking us on a whirlwind tour through the various tents and locations of the fair as we witness the tragic central story of Cash and Caroline, two young lovers on the verge of a major breakup, play out against this increasingly unnerving backdrop.
The worlds of fairgrounds, sideshows and carnivals have always provided writers and directors with a wealth of inspiration and proved utterly fascinating for audiences to explore, from the dark, surreal settings of Tod Browning’s seminal 1932 horror Freaks, through to Candace Hilligoss’s landmark cult horror Carnival of Souls, HBO’s acclaimed television series Carnivàle and even the recent American Horror Story: Freak Show, and The Funfair is no different. James Lusted’s dawrf ‘Tiny’ proves our narrator for the evening, introducing each scene with a short monologue, before taking us deep inside these surreal, psychological venues to witness the unnerving secrets they often harbour.
Director Walter Meierjohann’s innovative staging demands our attention throughout, ultimately placing the audience in the role of judge and jury as Stephens’ motley crew of characters take their metaphorical interrogations in turn, continually twisting our initial theories and beliefs as various past truths are unearthed. Roles are soon reversed and opinions change as we witness the hidden inner beauty of the unfortunate freaks, earning a living the only way they can, whilst the surface beauty of the likes of Caroline and the others only serves as a facade, masking the true ugliness and villainy within.
The fourteen-strong cast (plus a community ensemble) are very impressive indeed, with standout performances from Katie Moore’s Caroline, Ben Batt’s Cash and Rhodri Meilir’s seemingly gentle and kind hearted Johnny Chase.
Special mention must go to the three-strong live band of Max Dunham, Barabara Hockaday and Cici Howells, whose swirling soundtrack of recognisable rock and roll hits ensure we are continually immersed in the fun of the fair.
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes, including one 20-minute interval.
Final Performance at HOME, Manchester: Saturday 13 June, 2015.
For more information and to book tickets, please Click Here.
[Image: Katie Moore (Caroline), Ben Batt (Cash), and the company in The Funfair adapted from Ödön von Horváth’s Kasimir and Karoline by Simon Stephens, directed by Walter Meierjohann. Presented by HOME Manchester (14 May – 13 June 2015). Photo by Graeme Cooper]