Mark Ravenhill’s play uses the metaphor of two brothers – twins – to represent the former partitioning of Germany into East and West during the time of the Berlin wall. One brother, Karl, lives with their ailing mother in the West, while Franz is in the East with their father.
The most notable production choice here is to cast a single actor as both brothers and to have, at all times, one brother appear live on stage with the other pre-recorded on film.
On the surface Over There is an exploration of the effects of distance on the fraternal relationship. However, the play also contains a far deeper significance and is overlaid with weighty political baggage.
On this occasion, the text itself does not make for particularly easy watching. With Ravenhill’s abrasive, somewhat fractured style, alongside some design choices made by the company, it takes a lot of effort to fully keep up with each new development. That said, the actor from the Marauder’s Theatre Company who plays both Karl and Franz does demonstrate a good command of the language, even if his delivery lacks variety and rhythm.
The most notable production choice here is to cast a single actor as both brothers and to have, at all times, one brother appear live on stage with the other pre-recorded on film and projected onto the back of the space. This is undoubtedly an interesting and brave decision and provides some novelty interest at the opening stages. However, as this concept continues throughout, we eventually find our interest waning; we start to feel lulled by the synchronised dialogue between the brothers which seems to place more focus on matching each other perfectly than in characterful expression.
The pre-recorded film has been made well to ensure fairly smooth timing between the interactions of the live and recorded. Naturally, the end result is not as fluid as between two actors and one can’t help but feel that a considerable amount of Ravenhill’s written tension between the pair is lost in this way.
There are other directorial decisions which seem equally experimental and underdeveloped. For example, at several points, the live actor puts on a carnival-style mask yet there seems to be no sustained or explained meaning to this.
Similarly, we see a second actor who remains in the shadows off the stage for much of the play. Dressed in black, and often wearing a mask himself, this character variously takes on several roles interchangeably. The trouble is that each of these changes somewhat confuses his previous contribution. In the main his function is to provide the minor physical theatre aspect of the production yet these sequences with the live actor do not really add anything and are themselves unpolished and imprecise.
For an experimental and theatrical staging of Ravenhill’s play, this production of Over There will sustain some interest. For great character relationships and engagingly delivered plot, however, it currently falls short.