All too frequently in theatre, the membrane between stage and auditorium, actor and spectator, is too thick, and enjoyment is a hard-won battle. In Paradok’s production of Ondine, the opposite was true. The membrane was joyously paper-thin.
It was into this context that the tragically interwoven trajectories of water nymph Ondine and knight-errant Hans were thrown, the emotional gearshifts of their relationship rendered full-bodied by Kris Gudjonsson and Claire Robinson. Pomposity, tenderness, love, rage, and despair are mingled seamlessly here and to significant effect—my emotional barriers were wrecked on multiple occasions.
Ensemble moments are frequently punctuated and inform the central relationship. The group vaulted deftly between comedic foil and complicit enablers in the tragedy of human frailty unfolding before them, a dynamic that was cleverly extended to involve the audience. The fluidity and movement of the ensemble showed a real sense of camaraderie- all involved had a great time bringing this play to the stage.
The only cursory mention of comedy in the preceding paragraph deserves expanding upon; whilst tragic, Ondine was hilarious. Both brought the play’s unique wackiness home. The hyperbole practically sneezed; it came so naturally; and the physical awareness that actors brought to their role—think schizophrenic, fidgety gesticulation, outrageous facial contortion, and sinewy paroxysms of judicial zeal—were sublime.
Underlying this was the mind-boggling script, translated from the original French by director Philo Cheynet. Its rich lyricism, cadence, and razor-sharp wit, aptly accompanied by excerpts of poetry, were singularly brilliant. Much less the cherry on top, this script was the foundation upon which the play’s soaring church is built.
Leaving the play, I found myself uplifted, invigorated, and wistful that this rendition of Ondine was only able to tread the boards for four days. There is no doubt in my mind: the play was a triumph.
Ondine runs from Sunday 27th, March to Wednesday 30th, March, 2022.
Image by Will Lindsay – Perez, courtesy of Theatre Paradok