Review: The Robbers at The New Diorama

Written for www.fourthwallmagazine.co.uk

Highly emotive and, at points, embarrassingly earnest, Friedrich Schiller’s The Robbers is an impassioned look at the nature of good and evil. With everyone’s favourite Karl Moor temporarily banished by his father, younger brother Franz coldly conspires to make his exile permanent wreaking havoc as he slowly manipulates his way to power.

Whilst we are probably meant to feel for Karl, who on turning to robbery, mopes about leading a band of (not so) merry men from town to town pillaging as they go, it’s much more fun to watch Franz. In fact it’s hard not to like him for all his atrocities, with Schiller creating a blackguard with a strong whiff of that greatest of court manipulators, Shakespeare’s Richard III.  Richard Delaney gives a gleeful performance, clearly relishing each moment of camp villainy and stealing most of the scenes he is in.

Peppered with modern obscenities and some very funny moments of sarcasm, Daniel Millar and Mark Leipacher’s version seeks to update Schiller’s tale of Counts and castles. This works at points, with the language carrying on at a cracking pace but it also serves to underline the ludicrous nature of what is being said. It’s hard not to wince when love interest Amalia cries ‘No woman can live with the rejection of a man!’ As things descend towards the inevitable death ridden conclusion it is impossible to take any of it seriously. Furthermore the modern design makes the eponymous gang seem more like All Saints models than avenging angels.

Leipacher’s production has some nice touches of virile physicality and it is refreshing to see The Faction Theatre Company take on such an epic piece of theatre in a small fringe space. Indeed they are clearly ambitious, taking on the complete works of Friedrich Schiller over the next three years. But whilst this is a worthy endeavour, by limiting themselves to such dated melodrama it’s hard not to feel this could be a waste of a confident company’s talents.

Running until 27th November