Barry Simner's script tells, by and large, the same story as the screenplay. The disturbing predictions of Cesare (a moving John Ramm), a fairground fortune-teller, coincide with a spate of savage murders in the Bavarian village to whose fair he and his wicked controller, Caligari (a chilling Matthew Kelly) have travelled. When a friend is killed and a girlfriend abducted, the medical student hero Max pursues the hypnotist and finds him in control of an asylum.
At this point, reversing the author's original intentions, the movie insisted on a de-politicising twist, showing that Caligari was "actually" a benign doctor and the protagonist his clinically disturbed patient. Ending with the nightmare vision of a still villainous Caligari slamming the now demented, protesting Max into his cabinet, this stage version makes amends. The allegorical and prophetic dimension of the story - where the manipulated somnambulist Cesare stands for the German people sent off to fulfil by proxy the twisted desires of a mesmeric madman - are communicated, however, more powerfully in the programme than on the stage.
Surmounted by a sky whose clouds resemble an invasion of flying saucers, Ken Lee's colourfully claustrophobic design does not, for the most part, attempt to compete with the warped, highly subjective feel of the movie - though the vertical perspective it offers on the bedroom of one of the victims gives the killing the creepy look of a knife act as performed by a psychotic with a dyslexic sense of direction.
The star of the show is the "chromasone", an extraordinary device invented by Walter Fabeck. A long, bony chrome keyboard that rotates and tilts on an axis, it translates gestures into sound, provided you have remembered to wear your "data gloves". From the penetrative hiss when a needle is plunged into Cesare's cheek, to a glassy, frisson-like skidding, all the noises seem to be massaged from thin air.
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