Presented by Hotel Modern and Arthur Sauer
Reviewed 8 March 2018
Brought to Adelaide by creative minds from the Netherlands, this is a show that presents the audience with an unusual telling of World War I, imaginatively using miniature models and sets to tell its story.
The Great War reflects on the realistic horrors of the world’s first World War, starting from the very beginning with a satirical and unexpectedly humorous explanation of the triggering events of 1914. Using scale models, detailed sets, miniature cameras which switch between first and third person perspectives and live music, the performance then pulls the audience into the world of war and the horrific atrocities it involves as violent death becomes its recurring theme.
The storyline follows the letters of a young soldier named Prospert who wrote to his mother almost every day he spent trapped in the war. These few hundred letters were donated to the production by a friend who had discovered them in an antique shop in the South of France, and provide a hauntingly personal narration that transports the audience into the sunken trenches, burnt villages and corpse-filled fields of war-torn Europe.
The props and sets used within The Great War are mind-blowingly detailed combined with creativity never before seen on stage. Blow torches are used to wilt forests of parsley and turn model cities to piles of smouldering ash as the of bitter scent of burning fills the theatre, engaging the audience’s sense of smell alongside what they hear and see. A dirty fish tank provides the setting for the murky depths of the deep ocean, where submarines lurk just waiting for their chance to take down any enemy ship they can find. Stretches of dirt and mud filled with face-down bodies can be seen out of the small slit in the side of a tank as it tramples its way through the rutted battlefields.
From Tokyo to New York, Hotel Modern present their live animations worldwide, and have previously performed their powerful portrait of Auschwitz, titled KAMP, in Adelaide. Alongside their more serious theatre creations they have also developed absurdist-inspired, light-hearted performances such as Shrimp Tales which bizarrely involves the use of 350 dried shrimp.
The Great War is an un-glorified, engrossing and creatively detailed take on the first World War, allowing the audience to create their own interpretation from the images, sounds and smells presented to them in this truly unique performance. This is a show definitely worth seeing in this year’s Adelaide Festival line-up.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse, Festival Drive, Adelaide, 5000
Season: 8 – 11 March
Duration: 60 mins
Tickets: $40 – $79