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22 september 2021

Critique of the play THREE TIMES KING

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Critique of the play THREE TIMES KING

Kingdom for children's laughter

author: Divna Stojanov

When a story has one king, then it’s a fairy tale, and when there are three kings, then it’s a circus.

Three Times King directed by Katya Averkova, performed by Willy Combecher, Sigi Herold and Detlef Koehler, produced by the Gruene Sosse Theater (translated as green sauce, a famous culinary specialty from Frankfurt am Main, Germany, where the theater group comes from), is a non-verbal, circus performance about three kings fighting for supremacy.

Pink, Blue and Yellow or Fat, Tall and Hairy King, let's call them that because of their costumes and looks, at the beginning of the show, fight for a pillow to finally fall asleep. However, all three find the crown and decide to become kings. None of them, however, is ready to take on the responsibility that this function carries, so Fat makes a snowman in the microwave, Tall accidentally wraps the whole castle with his bureaucratic writings, Hairy causes the fire. The conflict escalates into a war with little spongy men, so that everything ends by turning the crown into a pillow from the beginning and going to sleep.

The story is very simple and that is why it leaves the space for a handful of gags, falling around the stage, jumping out, hiding, hitting, hugging and other physical actions. The pantomimes, facial expressions and the movement of the actors in general were quite clear and caused constant reactions from the children’s audience. Whenever one of the kings approached the other from behind, the children would warn; when a box appeared on the stage without anyone bringing it in, the children immediately alerted the actors. The actors did not pay much attention to the children's comments and the voice of the spectators did not change the course of the play. There was no feedback from the actors, although everything that was performed on stage called for children's reactions.

The reaction from the audience when the three kings fished was very witty. The children shouted that there was no water and therefore it was impossible for the actors to fish. Neither before nor after, none of the situations that would have been impossible in real life bothered the children. For example, the body of a snowman was made of one snowflake in the microwave and that was perfectly fine, but fishing without water was too unrealistic for the audience. In the conversation with the actors, when I translated them why the children shouted at the fishermen, they recounted that similar situations happened in Germany when children protested against sunbathing on the stage because there was no sand. Neither I nor the actors have an explanation for the sudden opposition, but it shows miraculous imagination and principles of the youngest.

Apart from the fishing situation, the children in the audience did not stop laughing and helping the protagonists on stage. From the beginning to the end, the intensity of joy and excitement did not decrease. The greatest delights were caused by illusions that children could not quite understand at the moment of watching, such as the appearance of objects on the stage without them seeing who brought them, the smoke whose source was hidden, the light in the shape of stars on the wall ... In addition to gags, the humor came from contrast and unexpected disproportions - a big man sits on a small chair, a small fishing rod has a huge hook, a tall man has a short blanket ... On several occasions, the actors would mutter greetings to each other in a fictional language, which first made the children laugh and then repeat the greeting.

The scenography (Motz Tietze) in the form of the front wall of the castle painted in a surrealist style with a bunch of smaller and larger openings, a magic microwave in the middle, funnels instead of gutters, enabled additional gags and symbolized the dream that is the frame of the story.

Music (Matvei Saburov, Katya Averkova) is the weakest element of the show. As the play is non-verbal and the story is told with movement and sound, the music should have been in harmony with the temperature on the stage. Many comic situations were accompanied by sad music, which spoiled the whole experience.

Although the text of the performance Three Times King provides an opportunity for children to learn something in addition to laughter, to understand that they should not be selfish and jealous, but should be diligent and good friend, the authors chose to stay at the level of effects and wit. This may not be the best decision from the perspective of drama pedagogues and creators, but when you listen to an hour long, uninterrupted children’s giggle, it is difficult to blame anyone for the decisions they made.

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