Gross und Klein (Big and Small)

  • Theatre
Critics' choice
© Lisa Tomasetti
Gross Und Klein

Screen stars rarely radiate the same power and glamour in the flesh. And 1970s German studies of isolation and materialism are not usually conduits for uninhibited pleasure. But Cate Blanchett, surely the greatest actress of her generation, is even better live. And Botho Strauss's unfocused 1978 portrait of one woman's erotic, platonic, romantic and ideological misadventures, though it's no 'Queen Lear', does offer a plum post-modern role in Lotte, an ordinary Sheila, a dirty angel, and other dreamy versions of a woman who doesn't quite fit in the world.

Benedict Andrews's super-stylish production treats Strauss's ten-scene critique of social alienation like a high-concept catwalk. Artfully rumpled in her petal-pink skirt and blouse, Blanchett's Lotte does broken relationships in the high Berlin style – i.e like a scratched and bloodied rose at the centre of a delicate, lustrous visual palette created by designers Johannes Schütz and Alice Babidge.

Perspectives are oblique and props oddly sized; monologues happen in a phone box; bizarre ructions with Lotte's extended family of dentists in a pool of hot sunlight; and Lotte's Candide-like travails in a squat which is so chic that even the obese heroin user is Lucian Freud-beautiful. Martin Crimp's new translation, with its mobile phone-era updates, confirms the airbrushed avant-garde feel.

Blanchett begins the evening hitching her gusset up, half-pissed on beach cocktails, and ends it writhing in a gold spangled leotard, being sexually harassed by God. She passes every test with flying colours. This three-hour production is essentially a one woman show with a supporting cast of 13. Strauss's collage of vignettes don't make an enduring mental impact, but they are a beguiling showcase for an actress who is much more than merely beautiful.

The last time an Aussie movie queen visited the West End, in 'The Blue Room' at the Donmar, one critic called Nicole Kidman's debut 'theatrical Viagra'. But Blanchett doesn't need to take her clothes off to make us fall in love with her. Often seen as remote or refined on-screen, on stage she is vital, intelligent, sensual, direct, and totally unafraid to take the piss out of herself.

Her tour de force performance with the Sydney Theatre Company, which she co-directs with her husband Andrew Upton, is a another sleek coup for the Barbican; whose UK premieres of sexy new work by Cheek By Jowl, Complicite and Thomas Ostermeier this season have showcased the very best European drama in London and helped our foremost importer of international theatre celebrate its thirtieth birthday with considerable flair.

Event phone: 0845 120 7550

Average User Rating

4.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|5
1 person listening
Donalo

To those who are kicking themselves for missing this - don't worry. Yes, she's great and I suppose I'm still glad I forked out £65 to see her live. However the play is awful - surreal, but in a bad way. It ended up being the most expensive theatre snooze I've ever had.

sailfintang

A measured review, I particularly agree with the comments about CB, but if you're anyone who's ever experienced that feeling of trying to be in the party when you are not in it, or the person who sits in their house lonely on a Saturday night when everyone is at the party, then this play captures that aching moment. Cate Blanchett's realisation of the feeling of separation is exquisite! Otherwise, it's got enough to engage those of you who are more robust. "I'll leave now"

Elle H

A brilliant play. Cate Blanchett is truly superb. If you laugh at life's absurdity, like the existential philosophers, giggle at bathos or notice the sublime segueing into the ridiculous you will love this play and understand every element as if it was speaking to you from a secret corner of your subconscious! It even pokes fun at class and social norms which is refreshing if you are one of those who feels even more alienated than the run of the mill alienation that is fashionable these days. Go see it!

yojo

A lovely piece of work. Brilliantly designed & acted throughout. It was like a modern day Alice in Wonderland, surreal yet beautiful, which also describes perfectly the on-stage presence of CB: her Lotte has a comical child-like curiosity mixed with miseries of modern womanhood. Her famous goddess-like star image will not for one second distract you away from seeing her merely as Lotte the broken woman. Altogether 'A-MA-ZING' (loved how she repeatedly says this!), you will not regret the ticket price.

Thelegalview

Exceptional performance by CB in a work which if you didn't know better you'd say was by Samuel Beckett ....somewhat surreal and haunting