Kaspar - Theatre Review

An austere staging of KASPAR – the true story of a near-feral teenager discovered in Germany in 1828 – in a converted railway arch behind the Tate Modern fails to live up to the promise of its unique setting.

AYA Theatre Company present a rare staging of Kaspar, by Austrian playwright Peter Handke, in a converted railway arch behind the Tate Modern.

The play is inspired by the true story of Kaspar Hausen - a neglected and near-feral teenage boy discovered alone in a German square in 1828.

Kasper was steadily taught how to speak and re-introduced to society, before being mysteriously stabbed in 1833. Handke’s play imagines Kaspar’s adult life had he not been murdered.

This production provides plenty of intellectual food for thought, and it could quite possibly spark off some very interesting dinner party conversations, but the dramatic and disturbing origins of Kaspar’s story have been almost entirely removed (save for a few feral-like moments from a seething chorus of inarticulate shadowy Kaspars).

The result is a play that fails to pack any real guttural punch. It is possible that this is aya’s intention - Handke’s script is, after all, about the acquisition of language and its ability to alienate and isolate - but it makes it difficult to get too excited about the evening from a theatrical perspective.

The cast works hard. Ryan Kiggel as Kasper is clear, precise and detailed in his performance, and in the second half with Kaspar’s burgeoning fluency, he becomes engaging and charismatic. He is very well supported by Elisa Terren and Duncan Thomas as the disembodied voices of society, and together all three are vocally impeccable.

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And yet I can’t help thinking if this play, with its deliberately austere setting and economical playing style, might make for a more successful installation or radio play than a piece of visual theatre?

* Showing at Arch 6 in Burrell Street, SE1, until Sunday, February 6.