If you want evidence of how a single word can radically shift its tone from one decade to another, go to Steve Marmion’s meticulously staged production of a work that was first published in 1938. ‘Address Unknown’ is a tale of two cities – Berlin and San Francisco – which we see refracted through the letters of a German Jew, Max, now living in America, and his good friend and business partner back in Germany, Martin.
The word in question is ‘austerity’, and as reports continue of strengthening far-right-wing movements in Greece, France and (to a lesser extent) the UK, it reminds us of the political precipice we edge towards during any economic downturn. In the two men’s correspondence, we see how Martin’s admiration at the way Hitler is helping Germany to recover economically enables him to turn against his friend, with consequences that lead to a fatal game of tit for tat.
This is a beautifully modulated evening – Simon Kunz’s urbane, drily humorous Max wears his anger lightly yet leaves us little doubt about its white heat. Jonathan Cullen’s Martin gives us a compelling sense of the painful moral wrestling matches taking place inside him.
The coup de grâce is Katie Lias’s simple set: both men correspond from their studies, but while Martin’s is all art deco, with a dark wood aesthetic, Max’s, though superficially similar, is stylishly modernist. It’s another subtle touch in a production that takes on profoundly disturbing issues with elegance and understatement.
By Rachel Halliburton