The Prince Of Homburg
German playwright Heinrich von Kleist took his life in a suicide pact at the
age of 34, and this, written in 1811, the year of his death, was to be his
final finished play.
Dennis Kelly’s sprightly new version opens with the eponymous Prince
sleepwalking in the garden where his somnambulist reveries are intruded upon
by the Prussian Elector and his attractive niece, Princess Natalia. The
consequences prove catastrophic.
Preoccupied with waking remnants of a
vision of the lovely Natalia, the Prince fails to note the strict battle
orders issued by her uncle. As a result, he uses his own initiative to win
the battle against the Swedes – and finds himself facing a court-martial for
his impetuous behaviour.
Kleist questions whether the punishment doled out for his misdemeanour
should fit the “crime” of flouting the rules of military discipline or be
tempered by the positive results of a precipitous action, and whether the
greater good really is served by sacrificing individual autonomy to strict
Charlie Cox’s naive Prince has a youthfully exuberant quality as he veers
from an unshakeable belief that the man he viewed as a father figure would
not sanction the death sentence, to cravenly begging for his life, to the
final conviction that his unauthorised behaviour does indeed warrant the
ultimate penalty. But, in an attractively staged production directed by
Jonathan Munby, it is Ian McDiarmid’s Elector who commands attention – an
experienced manipulator who plays the young lovers with a precise, icy
intensity to achieve his own ends.
Donmar, Earlham Street WC2H 9LX
0844 871 7624
Tube: Covent Garden
Until 4th September
£15 – £26
Review: Louise Kingsley