Amongst the slew of solo performances at the Calgary Fringe Festival, it’s really easy to get lost amongst the shuffle. Kyall Rakoz and his entry Ludwig and Lohengrin should not be one of them. Rakoz pulls together a fairytale about King Ludwig II of Bavaria as its told by his acquaintances, close friends and supporters.
The play tells of how Ludwig grew up and how his interests weren’t really aligned with politics or current affairs. The narrative delves into the medieval tale of Lohengrin, charmingly told by Rakoz using shadow puppets and a flashlight. Lohengrin is a knight, sent in a swan boat, who comes in to defend a maiden. In return, she may not ask his name or anything about who he is. The tale of Lohengrin is depicted in Wagner’s opera, an opera in which King Ludwig greatly appreciates. Throughout Ludwig’s reign, everything about him is questioned, from his sexuality to his ability to run the country, to his inability to marry to produce an heir to the throne.
Rakoz’s ability to carry his audience through the narrative is outstanding. With mostly a white sheet as a prop, he is everyone from opera singers, servants working in the castle, a woman showing the castle as a museum. The sheet is a skirt, a toga, doorways and a screen for projection. It is a simple set, with no sound design and minimal lighting and Rakoz steals the show. He allows the story to breathe through the characters telling it and gives every character a distinction (with use of his white sheet). Ludwig and Lohengrin is storytelling at its best.
Lugwig and Lohengrin is part of the Calgary Fringe Festival. It plays two more times in the festival. More information is available online.