Candide – Optimism is Cruelty

Matthew Needham as Candide

Matthew Needham as Candide

“Candide“ (A play inspired by Voltaire’s satirical novel from 1759) RSC production at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Leaps in time, clips of scenes, zapping through the human realm of experience – this Candide is, with a deep bow to Voltaire, a brand new play by Mark Ravenhill, fitting the 21st century.
Starting in a somewhat classicistic ambiente:

Dwane Walcott as Candide

Dwane Walcott as Candide

Candide the stranded hero, after his odysseys from one world failing to meet the ideal, to the next, he is giving up, however, incited through the presentation of his voltairian experiences, he takes up his search for the beloved Cunegonde again.

Before the audience can utter a sigh, the script zaps on and displays painful pictures of a monstruous birthday party that ends in an ecologically correct killing spree.

– New picture, even more macabre than the one before:

Sarah Ridgeway as Sophie

Sarah Ridgeway as Sophie

Mother trying to go creatively through the psychological process of coping with the extermination of her family. – A gentler picture following, Eldorado. The hero is on the road again, apparently in paradise, but again in the wrong movie.

Richard Goulding as Screenwriter and Rose Reynolds as The Girl

Richard Goulding as Screenwriter and Rose Reynolds as The Girl

He ends up in the laboratory of Panglosss Institue, a Biotech firm that has isolated the happiness genome and wants to create sustainable happiness for mankind. Candide was deep-frozen until his freedom was paid for by Sarah, his female alter ego. And – at last he meets Cunegonde again. Be careful what you wish for, Candide.

Susan Engel as Cunegonde

Susan Engel as Cunegonde

Ravenhill doesn’t provoke thought, he whips his audience on this way and barrs everybody’s Not-Me exit with their own laughter.

The ensemble play. Pleasurably, masochistically, and perhaps even oblivious to the world, they fathom the facettes of the unlucky search for happiness. You feel a bit like a voyeur and still can’t look away.

Lyndsey Turner’s direction is fabulous, and she is working with a fantastic team.

Magnificent: Matthew Needham and Dwane Walcott as Candide – Voltaire would have wept with joy.
Rose Reynolds as young Cunegonde is ravishing, and together with Ian Redford as Pangloss, they hold comedy at fever pitch.
Absolutely great: Katy Stephens as Sarah, she gets under your skin, every single moment.
Cunegonde the mature, gorgeous, Susan Engel, she has the longest monologue of the play, and she delivers it breathtakingly. A treat.
And the according text: Print out and hang up, please.

Voltaire was a harsh critic of Shakespeare, thought him to be lacking ‚bon gout‘. Ravenhill, on the other hand, in his new take, comes over with exquisite allusions to some of the Master’s quotations that stick so firmly on everybody’s consciousness.

One of these to close: All the world is an XBox. The men and women – players. We have our avatars and our levels, and our points to score.

Katy Stephens as Sarah and Matthew Needham as Candide

Katy Stephens as Sarah and Matthew Needham
as Candide

Photos by Manuel Harlan (©RSC)

This post was first published in German on 09/07/2013 here

2 thoughts on “Candide – Optimism is Cruelty

  1. Pingback: Candide – Optimismus ist grausam | artyviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s