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Theatre Review: Creditors ****

Joy Watters reviews a 'stunningly relevant' production of Strindberg's 19th century play.

August Strindberg’s 1880 play straddles the centuries with its themes of jealousy, revenge, self-doubt, misogyny and destruction. Its portrayal of crumbling relationships is stunningly relevant now as society re-examines its perceptions of gender. First staged a decade ago, David Greig’s adaptation is directed and designed by Stewart Laing.

The modernity of Creditors is writ large throughout as three characters, Tekla, her previous and her current husbands come together with tragic consequences. Former husband, Gustav, poses as a stranger in her absence, befriending Adolph, her younger spouse, turning malevolent psychologist questioning all Adolph’s beliefs in himself, his wife, marriage and womankind itself.

The action is divided into three painful duologues over two hours, without an interval, as old wounds are opened and certainties vanish.

Stuart McQuarrie as Gustav, the Iago of the piece, generally takes a stolid approach to the role when an occasional leavening could have opened out the character, particularly during his wildly misogynistic outbursts.

Adolph is a boyish ingenuous artist who is wrestling with his creativity. Edward Franklin excels in the role, broken by Gustav’s savaging, he is the lamb being led to the slaughter. Wife Tekla (Adura Onashile) is at her best in the latter sequences when the action shifts from the stage to live video.

She and Gustav go into a little room in the Swedish summer resort and their conversation is projected in black and white above the stage. Up close and personal, her agony at Gustav’s words is clear to see.

Laing has four girl guides occasionally appear, wordlessly doing guidey things; a strange intrusion of the outside world on a play focussed on three people subsumed by the destruction of their lives.

Runs at the Royal Lyceum until May 12.

Tags: theatre

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