Theatre Review: Lulu @ Gate Theatre

Franco Milazzo
By Franco Milazzo Last edited 166 months ago
Theatre Review: Lulu @ Gate Theatre

Sinead Matthews as Lulu at the Gate Theatre (c) Catherine Ashmore
If you ever need a reminder of the power of theatre, this is it. Although Lulu, Frank Wedekind's tale of a femme fatale spreading desire and destruction wherever she goes, was written over a century ago, its power to shock has not diminished or been diminished by the director and adapter, Anna Ledwich. Within the confines of the tiny Gate Theatre in Notting Hill, this work by Headlong (the theatre group behind Enron), packs a powerful punch, especially to those in the first few rows.

Theatregoers who are averse to occasional nudity, profanity (up to and including the c-word) and in-your-face drug-taking should seek their entertainment elsewhere. Suicide, murder, gambling, paedophilia and even a serial killer all make an appearance before the show is over.

Over the course of two hours, we follow Lulu’s life as she goes from husband to husband before falling to a tragic end. We watch as she deftly attracts and then verbally eviscerates the men in her life, all of whom see everything but know nothing about her. Whether driven by romantic ideals, lust, avarice or covetousness, these men are satellites admiring her beauty from an uneasy orbit and who, on entering her world, burn up with passion before often paying the ultimate price for her company.

There is little or no subtext here so the actors revel in the directness of their roles. Sinead Matthews does well to portray Lulu’s as a cynical harlot with an Elektra complex happy to sexually torment with words and flesh any man she wishes to attract for her own needs or betterment. Paul Copley plays Lulu's first husband (ironic considering that Mr Copley met his wife while in a production of Lulu almost 40 years ago) with consummate skill and menace while Sean Campion is a tower of strength as the father figure she loves and loses. Michael Colgan is a study in intensity as the painter who is tortured by the attraction he feels to his subject. Unfortunately, one of the original cast (Caroline Faber) was injured during rehearsals but her understudy is a worthy replacement in a largely worthless role. Londonist wishes Caroline all the best for her speedy recovery.

Lulu runs at the Gate Theatre until July 10. Tickets can be bought here and you can see a trailer here.

Last Updated 22 June 2010