There are two reasons to attend this Sydney Theatre Company production of Botho Strauss’s 1978 play, Gross und Klein, performed here in English with updated cultural references.
The first is to experience an archetypal German play that speaks on so many levels. On the individual level, it tells of Lotte whose obsession with helping others and being needed paradoxically sees her isolated at every turn. It is also, however, a reflection on society and the human condition as Lotte’s ‘pilgrimage’ sees her abused by what could be a dying species. This layering of individual, social, political and historical issues to create ambiguities that challenge our perception of reality is a typical German trait, and one that is worth experiencing.
The second is the star turn of Cate Blanchett as Lotte. There is a vulnerability to her persona, and a sensitivity to her portrayal, that means that even our laughter at her myriad of absurd comments only adds to the pathos. Blanchett throws herself completely into the part, touching her breasts, spraying perfume up her skirt and dancing wildly as if possessed, but it seems that she finds it easy to do so because she genuinely believes in the piece.
Johannes Schütz’s minimalist sets see corners of the room suddenly advance to claustrophobic effect, while Lotte’s hands pressed against glass become a recurring motif. You may need to be in the right frame of mind when you see Big and Small, but you should emerge feeling richer and wiser.
Until 29 April. Tickets: 020 7638 8891 or from the Barbican website.
Author received a complimentary ticket and programme from the Barbican press team.
Photo: Cate Blanchett steals the show in Botho Strauss’s Big and Small, © Troyt Coburn