I must confess ignorance of Max Schreck outside his lead role in the 1920s silent movie ‘Nosferatu’, and it would appear I am not alone, as Michael Daviot in the role of Max Schreck, telling his life story from beyond the grave, as it were, imagines Schreck’s frustration that the rest of his career fails to even register in people’s minds these days.
Nosferatu’s Shadow, in which a valiant – and successful – attempt is made at bringing Schreck out of the said shadow was, therefore, more of an education to me than anything else. The play’s style of execution is not unlike Jersey Boys in its ‘stand-and-deliver’ approach sprinkled with excerpts from key performances. Like my first visit to that show, I found myself utterly engrossed in the story of Max Schreck and all its details, quite forgetting all sense of time and place such that the performance was over too quickly. To quote from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons: “As I recall, it ended much too soon.”
Not explicitly mentioned in the show is a fact that became apparent to me. Schreck was one of the relatively few that successfully made it from silent movies to the ‘talkies’, evidence indeed of versatility. He had his eccentricities, too, which allowed for some entertaining asides during the course of the evening, and sufficient details of his personal life are included as well, so we are not just exposed to merely the stage personality.
The performance is frankly electric. Highly captivating from the first scene to the last, there’s an excellent rapport that Daviot has with the audience, firmly established very early on in a solid script – and never relinquished. The performance can sometimes be very physical, other times philosophical, and always enjoyable. It’s perfectly well-paced – I think that’s what I liked about it the most – neither sluggish nor rushed. Well researched and well performed, Max Schreck is demystified in this play. This is a good opportunity to find out more about an actor whose actual life rarely, if ever, imitated art.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Who was Max Schreck, the man behind the most iconic of all movie monsters? How did he come to be remembered solely for the one and only horror film he made during a career encompassing 800 parts and 50 films? How did he manage to continue working through the rise to power of Hitler and the Nazis? What compromises did he have to make? He was a dreamer, a loner, a nature lover, something of a mystic, a hugely versatile and consistently lauded actor. He played in Shakespeare and Schiller, Moliere and Brecht. He was expert in comedy and tragedy, Expressionism and Naturalism. But, who was Max Schreck? To find out, we must liberate him from Nosferatu’s Shadow.
Michael’s previous solo show, Hyde & Seek, received multiple four-star reviews and The Stage said, ’Daviot is a spellbinding writer and a magnetic performer.’
BlackBox: Nosferatu’s Shadow
19th January 2016 – 21st January 2016 at 7:00pm
above the Oxford Arms
265 Camden High Street
London NW1 7BU