LIFESTYLE - CULTURE

Theatre review

Papercut: Shifting the balance of power



The onstage chemistry between Sascha Ley and Andrea Hall is a delight to watch.  JU_Mierscher Kulturhaus

The onstage chemistry between Sascha Ley and Andrea Hall is a delight to watch.  JU_Mierscher Kulturhaus

Larisa Faber’s Papercut is a superbly staged and exquisitely acted play that veers neatly between biting satire and psychological drama.

The timing for the staging of Larisa Faber’s latest play, in the week after Luxembourg finally introduced legislation on whistleblower protection, could hardly have been better. Some seven years after the event, Papercuts deals with the school leaks case that temporarily rocked the establishment but more permanently scarred the life of one of the teachers at its epicentre.

Faber, who also directs, is a former student of that teacher, but Papercuts shies from delivering a personal verdict on the fallout of the school leaks case. Instead, Faber and her cast of Sascha Ley and Andrea Hall create a spellbinding drama that asks universal questions about courage, commitment, ethics, loyalty, patriarchy and the whole rotten system.

Setting the play as a talk show is a stroke of genius that works superbly thanks to the presence of Andrea Hall as the host, a confident and vivacious provocateur who knows exactly how to coerce her guest and goad her audience. Sascha Ley as the whistleblowing “teacher” walks into this set-up wide-eyed though suitably nervous, desperate to tell her side of the story but already wary of hostile reactions after the abuse she has suffered from colleagues, friends, strangers…

Faber and her cast of Sascha Ley and Andrea Hall create a spellbinding drama that asks universal questions about courage, commitment, ethics, loyalty, patriarchy and the whole rotten system.

 Duncan Roberts editor-in-chief Delano digital

The play hinges very much on the symbiosis between Hall and Ley, and the actors pull it off with aplomb as the uneasy relationship between talk show host and guest evolves through mistrust and disdain to understanding and empathy into something quite unexpected. The onstage chemistry and mutual respect the actors show each other is a delight to watch.

It is to credit of their story telling skills and the script that some of the indelible images the audience is left with are a male teacher with a tuna melt sandwich, a daughter’s serious stare across a playground, a son saying hello-goodbye to his mother…

Indeed, the whole play – which runs at a very digestible 70 minutes – is a delight. Marie-Luce Theis has designed a show that is superbly minimalist and cleverly allows attention to focus on the actors and the words they so carefully deliver. The stage itself is used as a chalkboard and incorporates a hidden see-saw that serves to not only shift the balance of power between the actors but also highlights the heavy burden, the struggle of conscience weighing on the protagonist. The sound design and composition by Luka Tonnar subtly evokes underlying menace.

Relentless

The talk show experience is enhanced by pre-recorded audience reaction and audiovisual snippets--interviews, biographical poetry and drawing featuring surprise guests and created by Maida Halilović. The actors also play interactive games and burst into song, written solely by Tonnar or in conjunction with Ley. These intervals provide comic relief or moments of reflection for the audience, and some respite from the intense action and dialogue for the actors--it is a physically, and vocally, demanding piece that builds a relentless pace as it races towards its climax.

By the end, the audience is equally breathless and stunned and comes away with a fresh perspective on the school leaks affair and Luxembourg society--the text includes a damning account of a civil service exam. And, just maybe they will also think twice before judging someone based on what they read in the media or on Facebook and consider the impact personal attacks via social media can leave on their victim.

Papercut is on at the Mierscher Kulturhaus on 25-27 and 29 January at 8pm. The play is in English. Information and tickets here.