Female-led international company Collide Theatre are bringing Georg Kaiser’s The Coral to the UK for the first time in 100 years this Autumn. Part parable, part family drama, and part thriller, this expressionist play, radical for its time, is an exploration of humankind’s infatuation with money and the power it holds over those who possess it.
What is The Coral about?
The Coral is the first part of the expressionist trilogy Gas, which follows the story of three generations of one family. Georg Kaiser was not intending for it to be a trilogy, so The Coral is also a play that stands on its own. Despite it being written in 1917, The Coral feels like a modern-day family drama, full of generational conflicts over status, power and money. The Coral’s protagonist is a self-made Millionaire who has been striving to distance himself from his traumatic past. He uses his wealth as protection against a pathological fear of reality and he attempts to recapture the happy childhood he never had through his children. For this reason, he has brought up his two children away from all contact with the ‘dark sides’ of life. But his world begins to crumble after they reject his way of life.
What makes the play’s themes still relevant today?
There is something terrifying in the realisation that a play which was written more than 100 years ago resonates as relevant or even prophetic today. This was my experience when first reading The Coral. The title of the trilogy itself – Gas – resonates so much in today’s context. Gas is a source of productive and destructive energy, full of promises and dangers. Particularly in today’s context, the implications of weaponising ‘gas’ are scary. As the prospect of an energy emergency appears imminent and as we are being warned that this coming autumn and winter will be a historic one – possibly the most difficult one since the Second World War, I wonder how much we continue to fail as humanity… I was amazed at how Kaiser deals with the power money can have over humans. Kaiser said that he wrote the figure of the imaginary Millionaire to pursue the question: “if I had complete financial security, could I then be happy?” – his answer seemed to be negative as the Millionaire’s wealth could not protect him from his existential fear. In the context of recent political statements about cracking down degrees that do not improve students’ earning potential’, as well as the deepest plunge in living standards on record, what is our relationship to money today? I wonder what my generation is feeling in the wake of 2023 – while yet another deadly war is raging in Europe, recession on its way, and an awful social crisis is plaguing our society.
How do you want the audience to feel?
We would like for the audience to feel the exasperation and the absurdity that the characters are experiencing. We would love for them to feel as if they are in a Kafka story, or in a film by David Lynch, or even in a painting by Francis Bacon – where everything feels constantly like a weird blend of reality and fantasy. Expect a surreal dive into a man’s worst fears, and a society’s worst nightmare. A world full of dreamers and doppelgängers, with a hypnotic quality of money, and a visceral flight into illusion. Our production will embrace the grotesqueness of German Expressionism – the surreal and the absurd – while also facing some very real questions about how ‘status’ and ‘money’ remain two of the most influential rewards that society uses in order to manage human behaviour.
Who are you working with to bring this production to life?
I am thrilled to be working with a very inspirational team of young professionals and we all come from different parts of the world Ioana Curelea – a visionary set and costume designer from Romania – will help me bring to life the distorted and exaggerated aesthetic of the dream. Movement Director Ioli Filippakopoulou, a fellow Athenian, will work closely with myself and the actors in realising the combination of exaggerated physicality and fine stillness of the characters. And lastly David Denyer, a British-German-Armenian composer, has already started creating the nightmarish soundscape. I am also collaborating with script consultant Quentin Beroud, Associate Producer Samuel Skoog, Assistant Producer Arielle Zilkha, Assistant Director Aska Hayakawa, and Lighting Designer Amy Hill. It is a real privilege to be having more than 10 different nationalities within a creative team!
What’s next for Collide Theatre?
In April 2023 we are planning to present a piece we started developing in 2021. It will be the UK premiere of acclaimed Swedish author Lisa Langseth and her piece ‘The Woman Who Turned Into A Tree’. A sardonic and dark one-woman play about the destructive obsession with other people’s opinions. Lagseth’s dark humour re-introduces the ancient Greek myth of Daphne who was turned into a tree in order to escape the oppressive chase of a male god who desired her. We are looking forward to be working with Danish producer Camilla Gürtler and the incredible team at the Omnibus in Clapham!
The Coral is taking place at the Finborough Theatre 4 October – 29 October. More information can be found here. finboroughtheatre.co.uk/production/the-coral