Published in 1959, Günter Grass’ dark, dream-like debut novel The Tin Drum ruminated on the rise of fascism and the personal obsessions which both drive and hinder us. The allegorical plot revolves around unstable, unreliable narrator Oskar, born in 1920s Poland with the full-formed mind of an adult and a body that stops developing beyond the age of three.
In adapting the text, director Oliver Reese plays up the humour and the beguiling strangeness of the story, streamlining the surreal, conflicting narrative into an intriguing if awkwardly-paced journey.
Solo performer Nico Holonics gives a riveting turn as Oskar, channelling the unpredictable energy of a sly and malevolent toddler, lurching between snarling cruelty and simpering innocence, undisguised greed and utter vulnerability. Pacing, stomping, and skipping around the space, he savours the rhythms and textures of the German-language text, rolling each word in his mouth, flicking his tongue like a snake tasting the air, frequently throwing ad-libs, scraps of English, and mildly unnerving audience interactions into the mix
Appropriately enough, Jörg Gollasch’s accomplished sound design plays a big part in the production, creating an evocative and unsettling soundscape of organ-grinder waltzes and scraped strings that swell erratically to bone-rattling volume or teeth-gritting sharpness.
Daniel Wollenzin’s neat set places the action on a spacious plinth of brown dust, broken up by an oversized dining chair and a grave-like pit from which new drums are regularly dispensed as Oskar’s frantic percussing wears out one instrument after another.