Blancheblanche marvin's london theatreviews

recommended by Peter Brook
**** = stand if necessary
*** = sit in front stalls
** = sit in back stalls
* = have a drink!
adaptor CONOR McPHERSON director TITAS HALDER décor RICHARD KENT lights RICHARD HOWELL music/sound ALEX BARANOWSKI movement LAILA DIALLO producer MIRIAM GREEN with DANIEL LAPAINE kurt, KEVIN McNALLY edgar captain in the army, INDIRA VARMA alice wife to the captain
The second presentation in the Donmar Trafalgar Season showcasing young directors after The Promise, is a new two-hour version of the Strindberg classic, last seen in its original translation with Sir Ian KcKellen and Frances de la Tour. Conor McPherson’s update of this dark picture of marital warfare is very much an interpretation of the adaptor…much edited and more of a melancholic-comedy in its vicious game playing. Only three characters dominate…. the captain, his wife Alice and their visitor Kurt. Each in turn are at first reasonably sympathetic and then behave with demonic hate….playing tricks, deliberate deceiving, or enjoying taunts, in between attempts of love or remorse at its loss. The drive for revenge…because of life’s denial…. whether it pertains to children, professional stature, or emotional fulfilment, is dominant. Kevin McNally's surly control-freak Edgar, now a captain on an isolated island, fantasises on his days of glory and rages over his current demotion, victimising his wife Alice as the scapegoat ("our long, miserable mistake"). Was Edgar that important in the army and how much truth lies in his deliberately winding up Alice? Penniless, living in a converted dilapidated old gaol in which old inmates screamed their curses, they depend on the army cook for their food. Alice, Indira Varma, an actress who gave up becoming famous in Copenhagen to marry, is at her wit’s end after 25 years of hell. However, Alice is full of her pretentions. Was she as bad an actress as the Captain describes? Their battle has developed in time, each scoring points off the other (Albee’s inspiration for Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), yet obviously dependent on one another… "hate and love forged in the foundry of Hell". Could the army endure such battles? The arrival of Alice’s old flame Kurt who instigated Alice’s marriage, Daniel Lapaine, exiled in America because of his dreadful divorce and loss of seeing his children, adds real flame to the already burning fires. Did the captain undo him by sabotaging his marriage, manipulating the divorce which separated him from his children and caused his financial ruin? Kurt, in seeking refuge, is finally driven from the converted goal house into the bleak dark world unable to sustain such violent transgreesions. The translation by Conor McPherson is well edited and grandly humorous, capturing the characters and theme that Strindberg intended. The behaviour and taunts are translated into modern terms yet the period is kept in the dress and in the wonderfully evocative setting. The closeness to the actors involves the audience into the storming clashes with a deeply disturbing effect. The staging by this young director Titus Halder is that effective. He manages brilliantly to evoke both the comedy and the emotional intensity with the aid of his actors. But he’s not only blest with these three fascinating actors, but also with marvellous technicians and designers who magically create the mood and the credibility. Kevin McNally offers enormous range from the mad delusions to the captain’s realistic musings. Indira Varma as Alice is clever in her timing adding the comic elements by her casual throwaway lines but never negating the emotional pull. Daniel Lapaine conveys the surprising changes in Kurt so astutely from distressed anger over the loss of his children, to his passion for Alice, to his demonic rage at both Alice and the captain over their deliberate destruction of him. The important aspect to these productions is the care and professional attitude in which they are considered. Josie Rourke must be acknowledged in the scheduling of this continued programme originated by Michael Grandage. Import, Import and export universally especially for festivals.
December 13 – January 5/13