DANCES OF DEATH
by August Strindberg new version Howard Brenton from a literal translation by Agnes Broome.
Gate Theatre 11 Pembridge Road W11 3HQ To 6 July 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Captioned 4 July.
Post-show Discussion 27 June, 4 July.
TICKETS: 020 7229 0706.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 June.
Remorseless Strindberg drama sympathetically cast..
Glistening with irony, Howard Brenton’s new version of August Strindberg’s marriage misery drama reminds how the Swedish playwright saw humanity as scratching at itself compulsively, tearing the flesh. In lacerating each other, the characters also rip themselves revealingly apart. Their cruel games create an ancestor for Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
There are two dances of death on the military island home where Edgar and his wife live, communicating with outsiders by telegraph in their fortified tower, hated by and hating those they meet. Normally we only see the first, the tussle between Edgar and Alice, their friend Kurt sucked-in as a weapon between them. Brenton abridges this, allowing material from the second play where Edgar and Alice’s daughter Judith begins the tortured dance in a new generation with Kurt’s son Allan.
Kurt himself becomes prey, as mutual destruction becomes Edgar and Alice’s over-riding pursuit. The youngsters are still playful and gently ironic by comparison, but the claws are growing on these tiger cubs.
Tom Littler’s premiere of Brenton’s adaptation is skilfully cast, especially in the qualities of the three characters populating the longer first part and who continue to affect the younger people of the second. Linda Marlowe is a compact force to be reckoned with, a spirit that can snap, snipe and hold its own course in a society that officially sidelined women’s views and assertiveness.
As the males supposedly dominant in this world – near to that of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Ghosts with their assumptions, laughable today but holding sway then, of male superiority – are actors whose stage manner exudes sympathy and reason, providing an intriguing tension.
Pennington’s Edgar is a dried-up military figure, reliant on alcohol and irony, tired of questioning the long agony of life cooped-up with his wife. And Christopher Ravenscroft’s Kurt is exemplary as someone not only reasonable but of positively herding others towards a considered outcome.
Waves crash ever-closer to the huge windows of designer James Perkins’ set as emotions rise, its curved wall combining a view of wild amplitude outside with a sense of confinement within.
Edgar: Michael Pennington.
Alice: Linda Marlowe.
Kurt: Christopher Ravenscroft.
Allan: Edward Franklin.
Judith: Eleanor Wyld.
Lieutenant: Richard Beanland.
Director: Tom Littler.
Designer: James Perkins.
Lighting: William Reynolds.
Sound: George Dennis.
Movement: Quinny Sacks,
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Tara Robinson.