Theatre: Metropolis

When I told people I was going to see Metropolis at Schauspiel Leipzig on Saturday, they looked puzzled and said, “The Movie?” I said, “It was a book too.” Oh course it was a book like 2001: A Space Odyssey was a book, and dare I say, like 50 Shades of Grey was a book. While Metropolis was written by Thea von Harbou with the intention of making it into a film by her husband Fritz Lang, and 2001: A Space Odyssey was developed by Arthur Clarke during the production of Stanley Kubrick’s film, IMO 50 Shades of Grey was very poorly written by EL James, a former TV producer, and always felt like a loose screenplay that would be fleshed out on screen.

To those who say “I liked the book better”, I remind you that every medium is different and must be judged accordingly. So, here we have a book that was designed for film and now adapted to stage. That’s a bit of a challenge, I’d say. Not only that, we have one of the best pieces of early German cinema, maybe even all cinema.


Being a bit of a film buff, I could not help but compare. The set for Metropolis was based on Fritz Lang’s first impressions of New York and is full of Art Deco. In fact it was credited as being one of the factors for the spread of the popularity of the style. The other thing that Lang brought back from his visit to Hollywood were two Mitchell cameras. They also created a lot of special effects for the film. They used mirrors and double exposure of negatives, sometimes rewinding the film in the camera five times to achieve the desired result. The robot’s suit was made from a new material designed to be a wood filler. This made it rigid and kept it flexible at the same time, and metallic paint could be applied.

So, what did I think about the stage adaptation of Metropolis?

I loved the set! I found the use of video projected on the cube very effective. The cube itself was 3 sets in one, and the live video feed was reminiscent of the camera technique Lang introduced where the camera becomes the viewer rather than a static wide shot. I loved the camp nature of Freder harkening back to the style of acting from the silent film: the makeup and the dramatic facial expressions. Of course I loved the glitter shoes and that everyone wore heels throughout.

I loved the pig-like heads of the children and how each was a piece of art in itself. You were horrified and drawn to them simultaneously. They were like humans that had been treated as animals, non-humans. Though there are many child labor laws on the books, it shockingly continues to be a problem. I loved the big live screen that reminded me of Blade Runner. I loved the comic style text on the screen, but then I loved Batman. In fact, I could have just had text on the screen the whole time because once the dialogue started, it was a little hard for me to follow. My German level means I need to see the interaction, rather than listen to a long dialogue. That said, the choral session at the end was amazing. They were so tight!

Of course, the question we should ask ourselves is how relevant is the 1927 projection of 2027 in 2016? Have we learned anything? What will be the fate of capitalism in 11 years?

Schauspiel Leipzig

Wed 28 June 7.30pm
Sat 1 July 7.30

Artist, curator and writer: maeshelle west-davies gleans her varied life experiences to expose a personal perspective through a multitude of mediums.

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