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Blackbox: Nosferatu’s Shadow at The Etcetera Theatre – Review

Nosferatu's Shadow
Michael Daviot in Nosferatu’s Shadow

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.

4 stars

 

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
Etcetera Theatre
above the Oxford Arms
265 Camden High Street
London NW1 7BU
http://www.etceteratheatre.com/

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2 thoughts on “Blackbox: Nosferatu’s Shadow at The Etcetera Theatre – Review”

  1. Duncan Roulstone

    My only regret is that I wasn’t able to get along to either of the shows on the 20th and 21st after seeing it on 19th January. A fantastic piece of research presented in an engaging, entertaining and thought provoking way left me intrigued as to the sources Michael Daviot must have had at his fingertips to allow him to transform Count Orlok with such credibility into Maximillian Schreck the gentleman and indeed gentle man. How many of his film performances are still out there I wondered, as Daviot’s convincing performances as The Cook and The Miser must surely have been based on actually seeing Schreck in action. Also the anecdotes about his penchant for travelling by taxi and his life in post war Germany made me feel that Daviot must have met the man himself! Rather than feeling terrified, the whole experience left me feeling that I had been in the presence of someone who truly embraced the notion of Gemutlichkeit or Wellbeing-ness (forgive my attempt to crowbar the word into English!). If I had met Daviot after the performance (I had to dash unfortunately), I would have asked if the recording of Der Erlkonig was actually Schreck’s voice and if it wasn’t, what the poem’s significance was to the life of Schreck. As I dashed off though, I was inspired by the Schreck’s final message – continue to dream, for only in our imaginations are we ever truly free. I’ll quote that the next time I’m caught day-dreaming. Fantastic job, thank you very much. Duncan Roulstone

    1. Duncan – Thanks so much for your kind words. I’m just back in Edinburgh and will reply at greater length later today. A friend told me a comment had been posted, and it’s make a perfect end to a very special week. Very best wishes, Mike D.

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