THE BLINDING LIGHT
by Howard Brenton
4 Stars ****
Jermyn Street Theatre, 16 b Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6ST to 14 October 2017.
Mon – Sat 7.30 pm Mat Sat 3.30pm
Runs 90 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7287 2875.
Review: William Russell 19 August.
Jasper Britton in top form.
Howard Brenton’s dazzling play about August Strindberg launches Tom Littler’s tenure as artistic of this enterprising little theatre in impressive style. It needs a little knowledge of Strindberg’s life and work to get the full impact of the play, but that apart the performances of the small cast led by Jasper Britton as Strindberg are very fine indeed and Littler has directed it with great style. It is 1896 and Strindberg, suffering from a nervous collapse, has holed up in a small Paris hotel where he is practising alchemy in the bath tub, having hallucinations and generally behaving very oddly indeed.
The chambermaid Lola, a gloriously pragmatic Laura Morgan, is intrigued by his oddness and beneath the scruffy exterior, the chemical stained hands, and the dingy long johns he is sporting, August is actually quite a fine figure of a man. She half believes his tale of making gold. Then on the scene come his first wife Siri, a statuesque Susanna Harker, and his second wife Frida, a glowingly beautiful Gala Gordon. They want to save him from himself – or possibly are just creatures of his mad fantasies.
The play is stuffed with references to Strindberg’s works hence the need to know a little about him to fully get what seems to be an argument about art and science and creativity. Britton’s superb eye popping endlessly twitching and raving performance is a marvel to behold, not least of the marvels being how at the end he suddenly reverts to the real world.
Brenton has also come up with a really clever cliff hanging ending which hints at the shape of things to come. As for Strindberg’s work, later in the year Miss Julie, possibly his best known now written three years before his Paris crisis, will be in the Jermyn Street programme.
August: Jasper Britton.
Frida: Gala Gordon.
Siri: Susannah Harker.
Lola: Laura Morgan.
Director: Tom Littler.
Set Designer: Cherry Truluck.
Composer and Sound Designer: Max Pappenheim.
Lighting Designer: William Reynolds.
Costume Designer: Emily Stuart.
Associate Director: Stella Powell-Jones.