The Captain of Kopenick**** (National – Olivier, 15 February 2013)

Posted: February 16, 2013 in Theatre

Borrowing from football, this could be described as a play of two halves. A satire on German society and the military, set in 1910, it centres on Wilhelm Voigt (Antony Sher in top form), a petty thief just released from jail and struggling to cut through layers of senseless bureaucracy. The first half is vaguely Brechtian with dashes of comedy, superbly staged but somewhat stodgy and it climaxes with a funeral. However, it is necessary to sit through it in order to fully appreciate all the gags that are to follow and doing so gives the added advantage of lowering expectations, so that the second half comes as a complete surprise. Shortly after the interval, the action moves to a public toilet and what follows is around 40 minutes of sublime comedy, as Voigt assumes the identity of a captain and takes command of a unit which he leads to reek havoc in Kopenick Town Hall. We are treated to an explosion of verbal and visual gags, utter lunacy that plays like a cross between “The Goon Show” and the Marx Brothers. Who ever said that the Germans have no sense of humour? It reaches the heights of hilarity and Sher brilliance. At the end. all the audience can do is stagger from the theatre, still aching from laughter and pitying the poor souls who decided to leave at the interval.

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