Caligari, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

by Laura Kressly

One of the four winners of the Untapped Award this year, an ensemble of young actor-musicians present their take on the 1920 silent film, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. Using music, movement and narration, the cast stick pretty close to the film but curse the doctor’s victims to a Sisyphean purgatory where they must tell their story over and over again. Though the company employ a visually striking aesthetic and great music, there are some creative choices that evoke the style of an A-level devised piece.

The show is mostly narration that is divided amongst amongst the cast. This and the physical theatre sequences tick exam board assessment criteria, but the use of music clearly sets this apart as a professional show. However, sticking to the Weimar Germany setting of the film and utilising cod-German accents in some sections, whilst the ensemble is entirely British, also does the company no favours. It would have made no difference to set the story in the UK or use German actors instead.

Despite these issues, the script is pretty solid – though this could be more down to the film. The framing concept works well enough and the music is excellent. Some performances are stronger than others, though the paranormal, Victorian costume and design, similar to The Nightmare Before Christmas, give the production polish. Though an understandably mixed bag from a young company, it’s an odd choice to win one of the most coveted awards of the Fringe.

Caligari runs through through 28 August.

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