Frank Castorf stole Ken Russell’s crocodile for his Götterdämmerung

Wednesday, 7 August, 2013

Before we come to Frank Castorf, a spoiled-brat German “avant-garde” theatre director, let’s journey back in time to San Francisco and the Haight-Ashbury district. It was there that the Rainy Day team had a truly surreal experience, but we’re not talking here about the Haight of the 1960s when the LSD was dropping, but the Haight of the late 1980s, before gentrification began to take its toll.

The scene was the legendary Red Vic Movie House, at the corner of Haight and Belvedere. Typical of the post-1960s vibe that still resonated, the cinema was run by a “collective” and, this was truly memorable, movie goers sat together on lumpy couches. Lenin would have loved it, no doubt. The film on this particular evening was a 1971 classic from the repertoire of a true avant-garde director, the great Ken Russell, and it was the none other than the scandalous and lurid The Devils. As Father Urbain Grandier, Oliver Reed, was outstanding: charismatic, seductive, heretical. In this disquieting/hilarious scene, he attacks the quacks who are treating plague victims with horrible “cures”, including “dried vipers” and “a crocodile”, which beast Father Grandier duly flings into the fire. The same crocodile turned up recently in Bayreuth in Frank Castorf’s incoherent Ring cycle. More on that here tomorrow.

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