facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11
Are you missing theatre as much as we are? Support us now with Theatre Tokens and see your favourite shows when they reopen. #IMissTheatre

The Captain Of Köpenick

Published 6 February 2013

A floating suit that dances, fables told by a dying girl and characters that talk in riddles; the National Theatre has created a fairy tale from Carl Zuckmayer’s The Captain Of Köpenick with Antony Sher the unusual hero of the piece.

He’s an uncommon leading man in many ways, being a professional thief and compulsive liar who has spent more time in prison than out, but Sher’s Wilhelm Voigt is such a cheerful delinquent you can’t help but root for him.

Stuck in a predicament Jean Valjean would sympathise with, Voigt is an administrative oddity with no papers to prove his existence. The only way out in sight is to acquire a passport or resident’s permit which, of course, he can’t get without papers. It’s an ever ending circle that leads Voigt into trouble with the law time and again until a stroll into a fancy dress shop promises to end all his problems.

Impersonating a military captain might be troublesome for some, but in this German city the military are a bumbling lot, led by a corrupt mayor who spends most of his time in a onesie – I think it was called underwear back then – being berated by his sour-faced wife who can luckily be distracted in most situations through her fetish for uniforms and patriotic brass bands.

Sher leads the company through this farcical satire with youthful aplomb, providing some of the plays funniest moments with his hilarious deadpan delivery of Zuckmayer’s ridiculously silly riddle wordplay – in Ron Hutchinson’s new English version – and an endearing cheekiness that has you rooting for misbehaviour in light of the other civilians’ much-loved pompous military men.

The Olivier theatre’s revolve provides suitably fairy tale settings, offering us nightmarish, cramped sleeping quarters for the poor and red velvet-covered beds for the rich, quaint cottages with crooked staircases and a police station with drawers of files looming over the actors. Set against designer Anthony Ward’s cubist town backdrop, nothing is quite based in reality; the stairs leading to nowhere, the paintings hung skewed, the drawers leaning precariously to one side and the perspectives of the houses disorientating.

Olivia Poulet as the foot-stamping, demanding mayor’s wife Sissy and Anthony O’Donnell as her corrupt, rotund, clueless husband add to the storybook feel with their over the top characterisation, but others enhance the dark side of the story, police brutality and growing discontent in the community providing the drama’s vital backdrop of political unsettlement.

In reality the story is no fairy tale and is in fact based on real events, which led to the Nazis banning Zuckmayer’s work due to its potentially dangerous message of political disobedience. Whether the dancing suit really happened is another matter entirely, but Adrian Noble’s production is made all the more successful with this small touch of magic.

Share

Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.