‘Big and Small’ at the Barbican Theatre

In this surreal play, translated from Botho Strauss’ Gross und Klein and performed by the Sydney Theatre Company, Cate Blanchett plays graphic designer Lotte who is going through a break up with her husband. The world she finds herself in is aptly described as Lewis’ Wonderland; like Alice, Lotte finds herself constantly in absurd situations that bear vague resemblances to the real world.

The wonderful set design of this play aids this concept and depicts a world with huge windows to shrinking and expanding rooms, magical apartment blocks, illuminated streets and repetitive office interiors.

It’s like you have tumbled with Lotte through the rabbit hole as she makes her way from her husband, to her best friend and her family. The throughline of the piece is clear, even if the scenes are completely utterly and beautifully bonkers, this is what keeps the audience fascinated and prevents them from walking out confused. It also helps that Cate’s incredible performance of the slightly eccentric Lotte is just very watchable.

Lotte’s bumbling and stumbling, trying to get to grips with the world around her is at times hilarious and at times incredibly painful to watch. One moment we laughing about her comments on an overheard conversation, the next we cringe with her when she is confronted with her husband or when she shows up at her best friend’s flat. The lengths that she will go to, to connect to people around her and their responses to her efforts resonate: it’s not much a child trying to make sense of the world, as a grown-up trying to make sense of society.

The ensemble is strong and supports the piece, not only by their performances that are committed in which every role they incarnate, but also by their part in the scene changes. Through fluid choreography and highly coordinated set-moves, the scene changes become as much part of the piece as the written text. It all fits within the alternative reality build on the Barbican stage.

Big and Small shows us our world through distorted glass, rolling us through a mixture of emotions, which can morph from one into another from one moment to the next. However, it should be noted that it is indeed Cate Blanchett whose unbelievable energy holds this kaleidoscope of events together with incredible skill. The part won her the Best Actress gong at the Sydney Theatre Awards last year and her performance in the London leg promises a similarly award winning evening that will not disappoint.

Big and Small is performed until 29 April at:

Barbican Theatre
Silk St

Image by Lisa Tomasetti

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