Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Over There

Mark Ravenhill
Royal Court Theatre Downstairs
(2009)

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The second play in the Court's Off the Wall season, following Marius von Mayenburg's The Stone, takes time to get to what turns out to be a pretty simple message.

Even then, the delivery is stomach-churning and meretricious, as Mark Ravenhill indulges himself in German-style existentialism without adding much to the meaning.

Ravenhill, who co-directs with Ramin Gray, takes advantage of the opportunity to cast Luke and Harry Treadaway, identical twins, symbolising the duality of Germany in the 45 or so years after the Second World War.

They play Karli (Luke) from the East and Franzl (Harry) the West, identical twins divided by the Berlin Wall since the age of two. As the play opens, they meet for the first time in twenty years in the East and immediately discover an uncanny synchronicity, sharing thoughts, lines and even movements.

Slowly, Ravenhill uses them to reveal differences in their cultures and outlooks, each protective of his own country, while inquisitive about the alternate life that could so easily have been his own.

When the Wall (symbolised by groceries like everything else in a bizarre production) falls, the pair are reunited but the anticipated joy is far from the version immortalised by Beethoven.

Neither can adapt to the brave new world, with Franzl's young son a pawn used by each to propagate their own cause and beliefs.

The final message suggests that, eventually, Germany will forget its internal problems and, as the Eastern part lionised and was devoured by the Western, so the whole country has now been by the United States and its dubious system of capitalist values.

This is all achieved at the cost of large quantities of ketchup, mayo, mustard and chocolate spread, covering one brother and lapped up by the other. Yuck.

Playing until 21 March

Reviewer: Philip Fisher