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Review: Cate Blanchett in the Barbican’s Big and Small

PUBLISHED: 10:25 27 April 2012

Cate Blanchett in the Sydney Theatre Company's Big and Small. Photo by Lisa Tomasetti

Cate Blanchett in the Sydney Theatre Company's Big and Small. Photo by Lisa Tomasetti

Archant

Where to start with Big and Small? On the surface, it should be easy not to like, or indeed comprehend, this production of Botho Strauss’s disjointed, capricious, endlessly confusing 1978 play.

But Hollywood gem Cate Blanchett is so mesmerising, so free of self-conscious restraint and so watchable as heroine Lotte in this Barbican showing that it actually ends up being impossible not to be drawn into her strange world.

The storyline, as tenuous as it is, centres around a series of dream-like sequences in which Lotte confronts characters from her past and present, including her abusive ex husband, uncaring brother and nasty former school friend.

There is no rhyme or reason - it appears on the surface at least - in how these scenes are linked but what we witness is the bouncy, life-loving Lotte gradually humiliated, diminished and left disillusioned by the cruel world she encounters over and over again.

It has been generally assumed that Strauss’s play, Gross und Klein in its original, is a sketch of a cynical, consumerist society and how it engulfs real feeling and true worth.

Blanchett, best known for her confident turns as historical figures and strong female leads, is at times so vulnerable, at others head-strong and then, within a turn of her floaty dress, completely hilarious.

She wraps herself around the role and uses her body as a wonderful form of expression, riotously bad-mannered as she adjusts her underwear in one scene and then whimsical as she dances angel-like across the stage in another.

This is a physical and emotional tour de force and, for me, it just simply wouldn’t work without Blanchett. A star in the real sense of the word.

See barbican.org.uk for information on future shows.


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