02 February 2017
An uninvited guest
ORANGE TREE THEATRE, LONDON
The social gathering that is ruined by an unexpected or uncooperative visitor is a reliable theatrical conceit: from J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls through Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests to Yasmina Reza’s The God of Carnage.
But, in a 2014 German drama by Roland Schimmelpfennig, given its United Kingdom premiere in a David Tushingham translation called Winter Solstice, the guest from hell hails – or, crucially, seems to – from a particular historical inferno.
One Christmas Eve, Albert, a historian of subjects including the Holocaust, is fixing drinks for wife Bettina, an experimental film-maker, and her widowed mother, Corinna. A doorbell heralds not the expected friend, an artist called Konrad (he turns up later), but a stranger, Rudolph, who recently met Corinna on a train.
Apparently cultured, an expert pianist and lover of art, the uncalled-for caller progressively drops worrying details into the conversation. Although German, he grew up in Paraguay, where his father had “emigrated”.
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