Sweet Nothings is a new translation of Arthur Schnitzler‘s Liebelei [my review] by David Harrower. The play was produced for the Young Vic in London, directed by Luc Bondy and stars Kate Burdette, Hayley Carmichael, Natalie Dormer, Tom Hughes, Jack Laskey, David Sibley and Andrew Wincott.
End of the 19th, early 20th century, Vienna. Fritz (Tom Hughes) and Theodor (Jack Laskey) are best friends, both pretty wealthy but have a very different outlook on life, though both are ultimately jaded. While Dori doesn’t seem to take anything seriously, Fritz is in a rather destructive relationship with a married woman and fears that her husband found out about them and will challenge him to a duel. Dori tries to distract Fritz by introducing him to his current girlfriend Mizi’s (Natalie Dormer) best friend, Christine (Kate Burdette). But Christine really falls in love with Fritz, and quite hard at that. During an evening of partying, the husband actually shows up at Fritz’ place.
Sweet Nothings is an excellent production. The cast is absolutely great. The stage design pretty minimalistic but very effective and I like the play. The only thing that went a little awry was the marketing.
Sweet Nothings was touted as a reworking, a reimagining of Liebelei, completely removing it from the Viennese-turn-of-the-century context. And I don’t know why anyone would say that because it was actually a pretty conservative production of this play. Even if the stage design was a little more modern by using a round stage, that slowly rotates, the rest was not – the costumes, the props, all shouted Vienna at the turn of the last century.
Which, don’t get me wrong, is not a bad thing. I just think it’s weird that it was announced as that. Yes, the language was slightly modernised, but since Schnitzler’s language in general seems pretty modern, that didn’t feel too out of place. In the end, it was a translation. A very good translation, but not a reimagining.
The cast was fantastic. Especially Tom Hughes (Fritz) and Natalie Dormer (Mizi) had an amazing presence on stage. Though Hayley Carmichael’s Katharina and was pretty damn awesome, too, as was Jack Laskey’s Theodor. Kate Burdette’s Christine stayed a little colourless. Which is partly the role, no doubt about it, but Burdette didn’t manage to give her more depth, either.
The only caveat here was David Sibley’s Weiring, Christine’s father. He plays Weiring extremely tense and as barely containing his overprotectiveness, which is a very different character interpretation than I had and doesn’t work that well, in my opinion.
I went with my parents and one of my sisters (and * was there, too with her mom). They all thought the first half a little boring – which I didn’t think at all – but thought the second half much better and generally the play very well acted. Considering the applause at the end, the rest of the audience thought so, too and didn’t like it as much as I did. But I can only recommend it.