Camden Fringe 2009
Verano Theatre Company
Venue: The Etcetera Theatre
Festival: Camden Fringe
A punchy little relationship piece which twists from the sweetly endearing to the downright disturbing and back again.
In 1986 Werner Bloy kidnapped his ex-girlfriend and her friend in a hostage situation which lasted 38 hours and ended with Bloy being shot whilst waiting for the four sandwiches, cigarettes, a newspaper and four bottles of lemonade that he had somewhat unassumingly demanded. Bloy’s misguided actions are the inspiration for Helmut Krausser’s complex Leatherface, which he dedicated to a man whom he said ‘was shot by the Munich police, who can’t take a joke’. Now whether holding your ex-girlfriend hostage at gun point is a laughable matter or not, Krausser’s clear empathy with the troubled Bloy is heavily evident in his elegantly written and highly strung play which slices and dices with conventions of normality, societal expectation, obsessive love and is actually at points, laugh out loud funny.
Krausser has turned his Bloy into a softly spoken but oft wild eyed poet who feeds his soul by dressing up as Leatherface, the mass murdering maniac in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Sure it’s pigs blood on his hillbilly apron but the mask and chainsaw are realistic enough, and so it comes as no surprise that his girlfriend is scared and disturbed to find him thus when she unexpectedly comes home from work early. But what starts as an argument that any strained partner could recognise, soon spirals down into a fresh kind of hostage madness which both of them are strangely complicit in. No victims, no real perpetrators, they are tied inexorably to each other in a weirdly symbiotic relationship which defies easy categorization.
Paul Smith directs with razor sharp clarity and Jim Townsend and Sarah Brand have an amazing chemistry which lights up the stage and seems as natural as breathing. ‘She’ a drunk barmaid, with remnants of normal judgment but a propensity to always forgive, ‘He’ a romantic poet of violence, his language dripped in entrails, incisions and moonlight shards of light, he wants to clean the world of the ‘monsters’ within it and protect his Princess at all costs. Trapped inside their tiny flat they circle one another, moving from trust to contempt and fully utlising all the subtle tactics available to them in between.
You want to condemn them but Krausser’s text makes it impossible to do so. He has succeeded in writing a relationship drama which is more than simply an idealised ‘romcom’ or a Patrick Marber-esq tale of cruelty and selfish need. Maybe it’s their loopiness that saves them from this; desperate yes, but also desperately endearing, you watch them play out their own sick game to their hearts content and it all seems somehow perfectly human. In fact when the inevitable ending painfully happens, you cannot help but think that the police really didn’t have a sense of humour in the face of this violently harmless fun.
Tonight is the last night of this tour – 7.30pm