Left - Michael Habib, Ksenja Logos & Antje Guenther. Cover - Nick Pelomis and Michael Habib. Photos - Chris Herzfield
The playwright is better known than the subject in Archtektin a heady intellectual expose of an Austrian architect. Both are inspirational women.
Robyn Archer is beloved in Adelaide for her gutsy, fresh, intellectual material. Margarete Schütte-Lihotsky is likely unknown until this world premiere play depicts her life story.
Archer has taken Schutte-Lihotsky’s own writings and many other sources to tell the story of a woman, an architect and a survivor.
Schutte-Lihotsky was the first woman to study architecture at the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna, and became prominent in her field, probably best known for her design of the ‘Frankfurt Kitchen”. She was an advocate for the working woman and herself a woman of contradictions. Her story is rich, intriguing and thought-provoking. Archer and Schutte-Lihotsky remind us of the power of the human mind, and the passion that can drive individuals to achieve at all costs.
Designer Mary Moore has done Schutte-Lihotsky proud with her clean lines and minimalistic stage design, complete with media screen. Her replica of the ‘Frankfurt Kitchen’ is particularly enlightening. Lighting designer Geoff Cobham ably supports her.
However, it is Helen Morse as the older Schutte-Lihotsky who really brings to life the passion of this remarkable woman. Archer has used a technique of having the older Schutte-Lihotsky on stage most of the time, in the background and acting as a voice of conscience to the younger Schutte-Lihotsky , played by Ksenja Logos. It is only towards the end of the play that Morse swaps roles and becomes the main character. Nevertheless she encapsulates the spirit of this remarkable woman who paved her own way in a man’s dominion, and who was ultimately the architect of her own destiny.
Ksenja Logos plays a determined, and ambitous younger Schutte-Lihotsky, leaving the impression that the passion for architecture is seeded deep in the woman’s heart and mind, no matter what the cost in her personal life.
It is Schutte-Lihotsky around which the rest of the characters revolve. Nevertheless Nick Pelomis is a strong support as her husband and colleague Wilhelm Schutte, and Craig Behenna is an endearing musician and communist Hanns Eisler. Other cast members - Michael Habib as Ernst May, Antje Guenther and Duncan Graham - are all excellent in their various roles although all (except Guenther) struggle to portray any German accent.
Architektin is heady material. It is strident, intellectual and feminist. There are long speeches espousing socialist values and the plight of the working woman. Schutte-Lihotzky’s life spans almost 103 years and so this play is seeped in history, particularly the rise and fall of the Nazis in Germany. At three hours long this play is wordy and not for the feint-hearted. Nevertheless it is a rich story of one woman’s survival, an amazing feat considering she was imprisoned for her role in the Austrian resistance against Nazi Germany.
State Theatre Company of South Australia presents
By Robyn Archer
Venue Dunstan Playhouse
Dates 29 August - 20 September
Bookings Bass bass.net.au