2014 Edmonton Fringe Review: Ludwig & Lohengrin

Sadly, sometimes a Fringe play sneaks past the No Fags rule. This one sort of did and sort of didn't, K'urn just came back from a week and a half in Germany and was interested in the play about the Swan King. I figured it wouldn't be too bad, even in the Fringe they wouldn't play up the Fairy King's pillow biting that much, would they?

Of course, I didn't account for the dual questions of "who usually stars in one-man plays" (Answer: the author) and "who would dedicate a play to celebrating the pathetic life of King Ludwig II" (Answer: a sodomite). These combined to make Ludwig & Lohengrin barely tolerable.

The play opens up with the telling of the fairytale of The Knight of the Swan, before introducing us to the cast of characters that surround Mad Ludwig the Poof. Various people both men and women are portrayed, but playwright-author Kyall Rakoz is such a flamer that all but a couple of them (Wagner and von Holnstein) sound identical. You're left trying to remember in which way he's wearing a white sheet as a dress, or which hands were on his hips to try to remember when he's playing the Countess von Truchseß, or the hired help, or one of Ludwig's queer lovers. It makes it very difficult to follow along even when you think the script will really require you to know who is who (and you don't). All things considered it was probably wise not to portray Ludwig himself in the work, but the idea of a modern day interviewer getting hints of the story from these characters wore old thin...indeed, the end scenes appear to play more like an actual play, depicting the scenes in which the Bavarian nobility thankfully rescue their country and indeed us from all this, having meetings in a much more traditional narrative sense to remove the nutty ball-licker from the throne.

By the time we get to the story of Ludwig's mysterious death (was it a murder? did the King commit suicide? did he prance like a ninny on a wet dock and drown?) we're in character abandonment mode. Ludwig II was famous for being a fruit from a family of fruitcakes, building castles and borrowing money from the treasury (bad) and foreign royals who he'd then be indebted too (even worse) in order to build castle after castle after castle. The play doesn't really touch on this, only occasionally chiding its subject for not being interested in political affairs as, von Holnstein notes, is part of his duty. We definitely are spared any taste (beyond "the people loved him") of Ludwig's impact or lack thereof on the grander European affairs. The Unification of Germany in 1871, just 5 years after his death, would almost certainly have happened with or without his involvement whether or not he was in favour or opposed. The Prussian wave that would lead ultimately to another Wagner fan (Hitler) had already begun, no matter how many acts of ass piracy the king committed instead of trying to lead his people. Instead, fittingly, we got the Paris Hilton of European royalty, a smug little man-child who like the late Michael Jackson or Robin Williams never wanted to grow up, and live in his fairy-tale land forever.

Final line: Here in the real world, we're stuck watching Ludwig & Lohengrin and a reminder that amongst the great deeds of European royalty in the romantic period there were still their share of sodomistic stinkers.

(for more reviews of the 2014 Edmonton Fringe, click here)