Meine Faire Dame – Ein Sprachlabor

EIF THEATRE
Meine Faire Dame
4 stars ****
Lowland Hall, Ingliston

IN A RUN-DOWN language lab – itself a relic of more optimistic times – half-a-dozen people who look like losers gather in a language class that also becomes a support group, sitting in a circle, sharing experiences. At first, they are hectored and lectured by a Henry Higgins figure, a tall, eccentric man in a tweed suit. Yet it’s soon obvious that his authority is gone; and if Christophe Marthaler’s strange, hilarious and poignant Theater Basel show is inspired by My Fair Lady – and it certainly was, in its conception – it’s perhaps because Marthaler sees in that story, and those songs, a final moment of confidence in the transmission of high western culture from one generation to the next, before it began its decline.

By formation, Marthaler is a musician; and his little group of characters – sad, funny, sometimes angry, briliantly played and sung by his eight-strong international company – express themselves mainly through music, sometimes soaring briefly into a traditional classical repertoire that is increasingly marginal to their lives, but often speaking more directly through popular songs, from Bryan Adams’s Everything I Do, to George Michael’s Last Christmas. The sense of loss – of subtlety, beauty, aesthetic richness and eloquence – is palpable. Yet Marthaler’s characters are still fully, hilariously human, in their quest for happiness. And when they gather shakily at the front of the stage for a final meditation on old age, it seems as though they’re facing up to the gradual death and silencing of a whole civilisation; sad enough, but as natural as any other death, and perhaps as inevitable.

Joyce McMillan
Until 19 August
EIF p. 8

ENDS ENDS

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