It’s not easy being a prince and heir to a kingdom. Not only are their royal duties like opening things and continually waving, you are also expected to get married – often to someone you barely know so an alliance can be formed – and produce the desired heir and a spare. But what happens if you are not keen on this idea and really just want to live your life like a common wastrel, appreciating the air and scenery around you? Well then, you have the opening to Georg Büchner’s play “Leonce and Lena” currently being Staged at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre.
In the Kingdom of Popo, Prince Leonce (Andrew Barton) is lamenting his life and wishing it were so much simpler when he meets a young man, Valerio (Sam Adamson) for whom life is full of simple pleasures – the feel of soft grass under his back is the high spot of his day. Valerio and the Prince become ‘friends’ and the former enters into the service of the latter who is determined to enjoy life. Meanwhile, in another part of the palace Queen Ptera (Emma Waterford) is discussing the future with her Presidents of the Royal Council and the fact that she has decreed her son, Leonce, will be marrying Lena of Pipi (Sarah Ratner) the next day. On being told of this, Leonce becomes a rabbit with a negative euphoria – not a happy bunny – and in collaboration with Valerio decides to leave Popo and head to Italy and a life of freedom.
In the land of Pipi, the news of her impending nuptials to Leonce has had a pretty negative effect on Lena who, like her intended, has no wish to marry someone out of duty and resolves to also abstract herself from the country and head towards Italy and escape with her devoted Governess. So, four people headed out from their respective homes to the bright lights and freedom of Italy. Will they get here or will events, cunning and some clockwork figures conspire to change their plans and possibly their lives forever?
Before mentioning anything else about this production of “Leonce and Lena” I am going to give massive amounts of praise to Set Designer Denis Dumitrescu who using rope and net, produced one of the most beautiful and versatile sets I’ve seen recently. Without a single alteration, it could be a garden, forest, throne room or chapel – truly wonderful. The play itself is magical, almost Shakespearean in tone and setting and the four actors brought it to life in superb style. I particularly loved Emma Waterford’s Queen Petra. Aloof, not giving a fig for anyone else – even having to tie a knot in a handkerchief to remind her to talk to the people – she behaved like a spoiled brat who stamped her feet if she didn’t get her own way, no matter how illogical her demands. She instantly reminded me of Queenie from the Blackadder series but, although having similar qualities, Emma completely made Petra her own and in her splendid costume complete with huge gold crown really dominated her scenes. All of the cast played multiple roles and did them extremely well with Director Roberta Zuric keeping the pace and movement going at a nice rate of knots as the story unfolded.
Apparently “Leonce and Lena” is considered both a ‘black’ comedy and an adult fairy tale. Well, I’m not too sure what the first one is but the show is both a comedy and a fairy tale in equal measure. There are no huge laugh out loud joke moments but the writing was amusing and had me chuckling pretty much all the way through particularly as it was delivered by a really great cast who seemed to be enjoying the production as well. All in all, there was nothing to fault in this presentation of “Leonce and Lena”, I loved it from start to finish and would really recommend the show as a wonderful way to wind down and forget all your troubles after a long day. My companion and I left the theatre and both instantly awarded this great production 5 stars, fringe theatre at its very best.
Review by Terry Eastham
Kuentos Theatre presents Leonce and Lena
by Georg Buchner in a new adaptation by Corinna Duemler
Leonce is the prince of the Kingdom of Popo. Lena is the princess of Pipi.
To escape an arranged marriage, both decide to run away. But in the woods between the two kingdoms, nothing is quite what it seems. The more the runaways try to escape their fate, the more they find themselves right back in its grip.
‘You love me because you are bored.
No, I’m bored because I love you.’
Georg Buchner’s dark comedy is filled with a host of characters consumed with ideals of love, power and adventure. A witty and charming take on society’s absurdities, Leonce and Lena is for and about those who can have anything and still miss everything.
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
410 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2DH
Tuesday 18th to Saturday 29th August 2015
Performances at 7.45pm
Tickets: £14, £12 concessions (suitable for 14+)
The Brockley Jack Studio Theatre