Georg Buchner's interpretation of French Revolutionary politics, 'Danton's Death' continues to fascinate. Perhaps most famously re-interpreted by Polish film director Andrej Wajda in 'Danton', in which Polish actors played the Jacobin supporters of Robspierre while French actors
played those of Danton, 'Danton's Death' is frequently revived during the Edinburgh Fringe.
It's a tough act in many ways, as Buchner's script probably
reflects more on nineteenth century German politics than on late eighteenth
century French, and a certain awareness of both is thus required. It also calls
for a great deal from its cast.
To briefly summarise the political manouvreings which led to
the trial and execution of the most significant figures of the early French
Revolution period isn't easy in available space, far less the variance
between those events and the licence Buchner takes with some of them. 'Danton's
Death' is best judged as German Romanticism rather than docu-drama.
It's worth noting, however, that most of the persons
represented were a bare ten years older than the actors portraying them when
they died. The sexual licence of Buchner's play may reflect a reality, but the
imminent possibility of death produces its own sexual imperative.
With that nod toward 'adaptation' and 'additional dialogue' mentioned in the programme, the cast nonetheless (largely) work hard, and in at least
some cases to good effect, but the overall impression remains a patchwork of
scenes, some convincing in themselves but failing to fully build toward the
inevitable ends of Desmoulins, Danton and their comrades, or to Buchner's
surprising final scene.
This reviewer had a sense of something being lost (or
perhaps not added) in the rehearsal process, a sense of scenes getting
lost in the urgency to perform them. Publicity speaks of making a 'mad dash
from the exam hall to the Edinburgh Festival' - many do indeed make their own
dashes from professional engagements (theatrical or otherwise), from the drama
colleges to which some members of this company appear to aspire, and elsewhere.
Many of them, however, seem to have a clearer idea of what they want to achieve
and how to do this.
Times: 5.50pm, til 26 August (not 20)
Copyright Bill Dunlop 2007, Published on EdinburghGuide.com August 2007