The Visit by Friedrich Dürrenmatt.
Pictures by Nick Ball Photography
Where else would aspiring young actors get the chance to star as blind, violin-strumming eunuchs and women with prosthetic legs, artificial hands and east European accents than under the direction of Jonathan Goodwin at The Hub theatre in Haywards Heath.
This year Jonathan and his talented team have celebrated the Ofsted accolade of ‘Outstanding’ for their Performing Arts faculty at Central Sussex College, and the considerable challenge of Friedrich Durrenmatt’s tragicomedy The Visit was no less than they were capable of.
Add to that Jonathan’s introduction of a Tim Burton-esque dark humour, Gothic costumes, black and white make-up and stylised lighting and you have a recipe that must surely drip feed the creativity of almost every young actor.
And so it was that prostitute turned glamorous billionaire Clara Zachanisian swept back into decaying Guellen, the town where she grew up and was once betrayed by her first love, Alfred Ill.
With Guellen and its impoverished people on their knees, an aging oft married Clara offers her millions to turn round their lives with the proviso that they kill the town’s shopkeeper, Ill, in revenge for her mistreatment.
At first they refuse to break the law and the moral code but soon the power of money festers into temptation, greed and corruption with nothing, not even murder, beyond them.
Swiss playwright Durrenmatt’s original German text was once an A level requirement and is a masterpiece of observation of the human condition and capacity for evil.
So, too, was this production ingenious, directed by an as always inspired Jonathan Goodwin with dance teacher Rose Ryan contributing powerful dance routines.
Seven students played Clara side by side, with every, in time limping step, crooked stance and awkwardly held, gloved arm emphasising her life’s misfortune, which she attributes to a duplicitous Ill and the corrupted town that drove her out.
The seven Claras, with their heavy east European accents, tempting looks and coniving ways, were outstanding as were others who played Ill himself, the larger-than-life mayor, the townsfolk, and eunuchs Coby and Loby who played the violin and guitar is the most moving way.
With the characters donning black and white face paint and puckered black lips surmounted by wild hair do’s, this was at times reminiscent of Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baren Cohen in Les Miserables, Heath Ledger’s definitive Joker and Burton’s own Gothic Corpse Bride.
It was a challenging script from start to finish and the performers never wavered in their enthusiastic and highly original interpretations of an intriguing story that exuded relevance.