Opening in the same week, Noel Coward's "Semi-Monde" and Frank Wedekind's "Lulu," are both obsessed with sex, but it goes without saying that they could not be more different. "Semi-Monde," written in 1926 but not performed until 1977 (in Glasgow), was damned with faint praise by Coward in his autobiography, which mentions that the play was "well constructed and on the whole, well written." Considering that Coward was twenty-seven when he wrote the play while touring the U.S. in his shocking smash hit, "The Vortex," it is not a bad work; it is just not a good one. But in Philip Prowse's atmospheric setting in the Paris Ritz Hotel in three successive years in the 20s, an excellent cast led by Nichola McAuliffe and John Carlisle gives us a taste of decadence with a moral lesson. Rich women deceive their husbands, male and female homosexuals are predators, the innocent are seduced, and drugs and liquor consumed in excess. You will not be surprised to learn that all are lonely, unhappy, and unfulfilled.
Frank Wedekind's "Lulu" is of course a much more serious work, and it is often produced on the dramatic and operatic stage in a combination, as this is, of the author's two plays, "Earth Spirit" and "Pandora's Box." His outspoken treatment of sex landed Wedekind in the dock for obscenity. Lulu, the author suggests, was a natural spirit, free and innocent despite her many affairs. Directed by Jonathan Kent, in a translation by Nicholas Wright, Anna Friel as Lulu moves from Berlin to Paris to London, destructively seducing or being seduced by men until she meets her end at the hands of Jack the Ripper. (Almeida at Kings Cross, to May 12 Box office: www.almeida.co.uk. !>
Article reprinted from TheaterPro.Com and was written by Alice Griffin. This article first appeared in May 2001 as the "News" article for the month. Click on the image to see this month's article.
Reprinted for convenience and with permission. No copyright infringements on TheaterPro.Com or Alice Griffin are intended.
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