Festivals are an opportunity to present performances that might not otherwise be seen; there are several in this year’s Sydney Festival (Jan 9-27). Two extraordinary companies – Complicité (UK) and Schaubühne Berlin – are collaborating to present Beware of Pity at the Roslyn Packer Theatre for 5 performances Jan 23-27. This ‘bold, technically adventurous and sexually charged’ production will be one of the Festival’s outstanding events.
Beware of Pity, based on a novel by Stefan Zweig, is a prescient portrait of Europe stumbling towards chaos. Zweig (1881-1942) was an Austrian novelist, playwright, and biographer who, in the ‘20s and ‘30s was one of the most popular writers in the world. Dreading the Nazis, he went into exile in 1934, first in England where this novel was published in 1939, then after war broke out, in New York City in 1940. He and his second wife then went to Rio de Janeiro where they jointly committed suicide in 1942.
Adapted and directed by Simon McBurney, Beware of Pity was premiered in Berlin by Schaubühne in 2015 then enjoyed a critically acclaimed season at the Barbican in 2017. Complicité was co-founded by McBurney in 1983 as a touring collaborative company which has been to 40 countries including the Sydney Festival in 2017. The Schaubühne, here in 2010 with Hamlet, was dominated for 30 years by über-socialist Peter Stein. Their DNA will ensure this won’t be a standard night in the theatre.
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