LIFESTYLE - CULTURE

Review: Passion and pathos in The Coronavirus Chronicles



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Some of the cast of BGT’s The Coronavirus Chronicles at a first readthrough of the showPhoto: BGT 

A collection of short playlets and monologues about the human condition in the pandemic sees the BGT theatre run the whole gamut of emotions.

It is rather poignant that the repeated postponement of BGT’s production of The Coronavirus Chronicles means it is now being performed exactly one year since the first recorded case of covid-19 in Luxembourg. Many of the 13 original pieces written by nine authors recall the early days of the first wave and how we either adapted or genuinely struggled to come to terms with what was then laughably referred to as “the new normal”. Watching the performance sitting masked in a socially distanced Kinoler theatre also offers a stark reminder that we are still in the midst of this pandemic.

BGT head honcho Tony Kingston shares directing duties with his daughter Ferelith for the 13 playlets and monologues, which were conceived and compiled by Elizabeth Adams. Ferelith, clearly a young talent worth keeping an eye on, even contributed as the author of one of highlights of the show, the wonderfully rhythmic Rehearsal Etiquette. It features five of the younger members of the cast--Kingston senior has a knack of spotting and nurturing emerging actors--on a video conference call as they run through a song three of them are to perform. Top marks for comic timing go to the charismatic RachelKathryn Lloyd as the increasingly exasperated director trying to keep her distracted troupe together--she later offers up pathos and frustration in a monologue by Adams.

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Emerging talent

Indeed, all five make multiple appearances. Eloise Heger-Hedloy, a wonderful bundle of energy, and the elegant Sabrina Fernandez open the show as two warring and quite different sisters in a neat slice of comedy by Gracie Savage that exposes the myths and fear surrounding the early days of the pandemic--roles they will reprise later. Cassandra Köhler is supremely confident as a Luxembourg health minister in a hit-and-miss satirical sketch by Tony Kingston, and then offers us an emotionally wrought monologue she wrote herself. Johan Maggiore displays a very watchable natural ease on stage in a monologue and the four-hander Intergenerational Conference Call, both by Adams. The latter also features Tessy Stein in a neat performance, and she also appears in another of Adams’ monologues.

But some more familiar faces from past BGT shows also feature. Bjørn Clasen takes centre stage with pompous buffoonery as a UK health minister in the Kingston sketch. June Lowry makes us laugh as a Woman With A Bag Of Flour and is later sympathetic as the daughter of a dementia patient. The superbly versatile Helena O'Hare--always a joy to watch--showcases her range of talent, including a Spanish mother, and is at her best in the Adams monologue Woman With A Mask in which she has the audience close to tears. And the alluring Lindsay Wegleitner offers us two very different frustrated mothers in pieces by Savage and Josie Shillito, then delivers a lesson in pathos, and provides a glimmer of optimism, as a healthcare provider in a monologue by Ester Cela.

The directors have clearly given great though to the cadence of the performance as a whole, so that the audience is carried along on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Some of the pieces try a bit too hard to hammer home their message, and some judicious editing would not have gone amiss here or there. But minimum use of props keeps the show flowing neatly to its satisfying conclusion, We've Been Here Before by Luca Schmit. The two-hander featuring Tony Kingston, who reminds us of his talent as an actor, and Bjørn Clasen offers the audience a much-needed ray of hope as they depart to reach home before curfew.

Further performances of The Coronavirus Chronicles are sold out, but it will be available to stream for 48 hours as of 7.30pm on Saturday 27 February via the BGT YouTube channel.