Collide Theatre’s adaptation of The Coral originally written by Georg Kaiser is as direct as it is puzzling. The Millionaire, cleverly represented with a red face, and a portrait covering his face in red, makes him synonymous with other powerful, rich men like Trump or Elon Musk. He sets up monthly meetings with struggling individuals, listening to their cases before donating generous amounts. Yet this is done to ease his conscience, as he still holds onto insurmountable wealth to protect him from the horror of poverty that he experienced as a child. Kaiser’s political stance soon becomes clear as the antagonistic Gentleman in Grey confronts the Millionaire, asking him to sign a treaty that ends the divide between rich and poor.
Hints at a stylised, expressionistic world are conveyed on stage but certain aspects could have been delineated as the world seemed similar to ours but with strange, eccentric characters and a death penalty. Kaiser’s convoluted plot is purposeful but heavy and as result, the production had some issues with pacing in the second half. The scenes are transitioned using creative movement sequences that could have been executed more smoothly. The lighting designed by Amy Hill is brilliant, especially as the audience is immersed in complete darkness between transitions.
The multi rolling created a sense of chaos and the shapeshifting foreshadows the end of the play. That technique was also particularly pertinent to the running theme of circumstance and the randomness of fate. Adam Woolley’s faceless embodiment of the secretary was vocally sharp. He is equally intriguing as the Curator, with an air of absurdity and aloofness and also has flawless comedic timing as the First Officer. Esme Scarborough’s performances are drastically different as the Gentleman in Grey, the Younger Daughter and the Second Officer. She plays each of these roles with precision, capturing a strong sense of each of their internal worlds and journeys. Arielle Zilkha’s portrayal of the Friend is jarringly superficial and sprightly. Joanne Marie Mason’s performance as Younger Daughter is movingly emotive and striking. Stuart Laing plays the Millionaire, a convincing portrayal of a man haunted and running from himself. His depiction is that of an everyman which makes his character even more pitiful.
Emily Louizou’s direction enunciates the main themes of the play, as Kaiser asks big fundamental questions that humans so easily push aside. This adaptation is emotive, inspiring and gives Kaiser’s story a thought-provoking revival.
Playing until 29th October – https://finboroughtheatre.co.uk/
Reviewer: Riana Howarth
Reviewed: 7th October 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★