Sweating Through a Glass Darkly
Knocked out by a Sucker Punch?

Prince of Homburg at the Donmar

PD37911371_THE-PRI_1687121c Bit of a theatre packed week this week and kicked off in good style with a trip to the Donmar on Monday night.

Now the plays they choose can be a bit hit or miss but Prince of Homburg was like a nice roast shoulder of lamb - tasty and with plenty to chew on.

Written in the 19th century as the last play by Henrich van Kleist before he committed suicide at the age of 34 it examines personal freedom versus authority.

The Prince (Charlie Cox) is a popular and successful military leader, charming but impetuous. The play opens on the night before a battle and the Prince sleepwalking in a moonlit garden. The Elector (Ian McDiarmid) and his family are called to observe the Prince's behaviour for their entertainment and decide to tease him in his somnambulatory state.

The next day as the Elector's battle orders are being given the Prince is distracted by the images he perceived in his dream-like state and orders his attack too soon but ultimately wins the battle for the army. Incensed that his orders weren't followed and the victory is one of mere "chance" rather than design the Elector has the Prince court-martialled, the penalty for which is death.

The Elector and Prince are both vain and proud in their own ways but who is ultimately right? The events that ensue take on an almost nightmarish quality as the Prince's admirers and friends try in their own way to plead for clemency.

Charlie Cox, who I last saw in The Lover/The Collection, has a far meatier role here and proves that he's not just a pretty face (and he is very easy on the eye). McDiarmid is very shouty as the Elector and quite scary as a consequence - I don't think I would disobey him.

This is a new version of the von Kleist play by Dennis Kelly and according the original plot details on Wiki, he has tinkered a little with the ending which might rile the purists. I sat down knowing very little so I can't judge Kelly against the original. All I can say is that it is a gripping and moving play. A play that left much to mull over long after it had finished and definitely one that gets the Rev Stan seal of approval.

It was press night last night, so the reviews are fresh in today:

Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph gave it three stars praising Charlie Cox but disliking the austerity of the set.

What's on Stage also gave it three stars drawing parallels with another Donmar production of earlier this year: Life is a Dream concluding: "But without any real sense of Kleist’s poetry, and a lot of idiomatic low-grade speech, you don’t feel close to the heart of this strange, slippery European milestone."

Michael Billington in The Guardian is another 3-starrer and was upset by the Kelly version and how it weaves in Nazi references and gestures: "A brilliantly elusive play about the shifting nature of reality is turned into a trite lecture on the danger of nationalistic militarism. To which my only response is "Oh, Kleist!"."

Admit I did notice the clicking of the heals and references to the motherland but think I benefited from my ignorance of the original which I'm now intrigued to see.

Rev Stan Rating: 4.5/5

Photo of Charlie Cox as the Prince of Humburg: Johan Persson

RS/BW 6DS

Little bit of hunting through old programmes on this one but here it is: Harry Hadden-Paton who plays Count Hohenzollen in The Prince of Homburg was in Posh at the Royal Court and the sound designer on that was one David McSeveney who also worked on Cock at the Royal Court which starred the one and only Mr Benedict Whishaw. Ta dah!

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