The curse of being twice chosen

THEATRE; Call in the Night / West Yorkshire Playhouse The Rose Tattoo Theatre Clywd
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The Independent Culture
Hugo Bauer, the 69-year-old Jewish hero of Bernard Kops's new play, Call in the Night, suffers the gift of being twice chosen. As a celebrity violinist he is forever being offered tributes and services, yet his personal tragedy is that he wants none of it; none, indeed of the 50-odd years since his family sent him to England to escape the Holocaust.

The full understanding of Hugo's (Gary Waldhorn) life, leading back from the deluxe hotel to the Berlin railway station, is saved until near the end. I think this is a pity. We sense we are being kept waiting by Kops's manipulation of time frames and crucial information, especially in a ponderous first half. Moreover, the agonising issues that his history raises come into focus too late to be dealt with. It is specifically Hugo's mother, who has granted him his unwanted deliverance, who is the object of the hatred that Hugo visits upon every woman he encounters, but she is only a tableau figure. What has been the value of Hugo's life, especially his music? He despises his audience's nave belief that music redeems, but is Hugo or his mother right about this?

Call in the Night leaves many ideas resonating without having really developed them. The play's most intriguing feature is to have Hugo accompanied by his teenage self (Samuel Mumford). He is part companion, part factotum, the boy the adult must send away if he is to mature beyond his hatred. This is a serious, deeply considered work, but it is more absorbing to think about than to watch.

Casting Kathryn Hunter and Marcello Magni as Serafina and Alvaro in Tennessee Williams's The Rose Tattoo is an inspired move by director Helena Kaut- Howson. Though stepping teasingly close to self-parody through the humid, calamitous first half, in which Serafina hears first that the husband she idolises has been murdered, and then that he was unfaithful, nothing can prepare us for the arrival of the clown-like Alvaro. Following Williams's direction towards the "panto-mimic", Magni borrows from comic stereotypes from Chico Marx to Manuel in a perfectly judged performance which has us, like Serafina, alternating between love, infuriation and disgust.

Hunter finds the tragi-comic soul of love's creature, stricken by grief, betrayal and corsetry, with profound intensity and control. Sadly, lacking rhythm, and with the ensemble direction uncertain in style, the rest of the production and performances, save for Pamela Howard's design, do not come close. Hunter and Magni are, however, as felice as one could desire.

n 'Call in the Night': to 27 May. Booking: 0113 244 2111

n 'The Rose Tattoo': to 20 May. Booking: 01352 755114

Jeffrey Wainwright

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