An African immigrant struggles to make a new life for himself in the big city in director-co-writer Burhan Qurbani’s (We Are Young. We Are Strong.) audacious, neon-lit reinterpretation of Alfred Döblin’s 1929 novel. After surviving his perilous journey, Francis vows to be a good man, but he soon realizes how difficult it is to be righteous while undocumented in Germany – without papers, without a nationality, and without a work permit. When he receives an enticing offer for easy money from the psychopathic gangster Reinhold (Albrecht Schuch), Francis initially resists temptation, but eventually he is sucked into Berlin’s underworld and his life spirals out of control. – Alissa Simon
As embodied by Alan Bates, Butley falls back on the surgically precise wit and savage eloquence that helped put him in his current circumstances in the first place. The blitzkrieg of vitriolic commentary with which Butley engages lovers, students, rivals, and allies, all with equal ferocity, becomes a glass bottom boat illuminating the churning depths of his bankrupted soul. Acclaimed playwright Harold Pinter, in what Time Magazine hailed as “a quite superior directorial debut,” turns author Simon Gray’s single-set, dialogue driven stage play into an irresistible dynamic visual experience that tracks Bates’ hilarious and fearless performance with cunning precision.
Bates and an expert supporting cast, including OscarÃ‚Â® winner Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy), joust with a sly, self-referencing wit and an unselfconscious exuberance that is breathtaking. With every verbal parry and valedictory flourish of wordplay, Butley’s life becomes more of an inescapable bear trap of thwarted ambition, clandestine affection, and squandered brilliance.