Lotte’s Gift is a story of family, love, loss and pride. It is beautiful, enchanting, humourous and heartbreaking. It is what any good play should be. But it is more than just good. This performance, is inspiring.
Written for and performed by the amazingly talented classical guitarist Karin Schaupp, Lotte’s Gift is yet another impeccably crafted play by David Williamson. This amazing collaboration of two masters at their best, tells a tale that stretches over three generations of women, and it is a story that is very close to home. Based on the memories and history of Karin’s grandmother ‘Lotte,’ with interludes and comments by her mother ‘Isolde’ and aunt ‘Trudy,’ Shaupp and Williamson weave together a performance that harnesses both of their abilities. The fine writing and direction by Williamson, combined with Schaupp’s natural performance style and incredible guitar solo interludes, harmoniously complement each other and the story.
A solo performance piece, Schaupp plays not only herself, but also her German grandmother Lotte, and even at times Isolde, Trudy and Lotte’s husband Heinrich. Lotte, who the story is largely centred around, was once a beautiful operatic singer, whose career was impeded by a jealous husband, who ruined her one chance at fame and fortune. The rest of her life is lived as a subservient housewife, whose determination encourages her granddaughter Karin to pursue her own passion for music. Lotte tells of times during World War II; of the love of her life whom she could never be with; of her wicked mother-in-law who made her marriage hell. And Karin allows Lotte to tell these stories in her own words.
A clever distinction in vocal differences, and a subtle change in lighting, allows Schaupp to leap from one character to the next. Acting as the narrator to her grandmother’s story, Schaupp relies on her ability as a storyteller to hold the multiple characters together. Her natural and serene delivery as the narrator opposes her flamboyant and proud delivery as Lotte. The transitions are seamless and the illusion is easily believed, proving Schaupp as a formidable theatrical talent.
As for the guitar solos, I am left utterly speechless. To witness such a master at work is an honour. The way Karin floats from story to music is like a flowing dream. Her nimble fingers and passionate delivery encapsulate the emotion of the story. Karin Schaupp is clearly one of those people who was destined for performing from the start. Not only does she play guitar with emotion and finesse, but she also infuses that same passion into her acting.
While there wasn’t much physical action in the piece, the set design easily provides any visual clues that are needed. From the obvious elements of the slideshow of photos projected above, to the subtle details of framed paintings of balls and parties, and photo frames on mantle pieces, designer Graham Maclean allows the eye to wander with ease throughout the performance.
The writing, which infuses so many characters, times and places into one continuous monologue, is exactly the type of skill you’d expect from David Williamson. Occasionally however, some lines felt a little forced, like Karin was trying to explain too much to the audience. However these explanatory asides were used regularly, and once it was understood as a convention of the play it was easier to accept, though still a little unusual.
It is ironic that a story which is based on a woman’s ruined chance at fame, will probably have an incredible amount of success. The next generation should always live better than the last. I guess now, through Karin, Lotte has the fame she always wanted.
Christine Dunstan’s & Ensemble Theatre’s Production
by David Williamson
Venue: The Roundhouse
Preview: 18 April
Dates: 19 April – 5 May
Times: Tue & Wed 6.30pm, Thu – Sat 8pm; matinees: Sat 21 April 2pm, Tue 24 April & 1 May 11am, Sat 5 May 2pm
Duration: 2 hours including interval