by Arthur Schnitzler adapted by Anna Ledwich.

Gate Theatre above The Prince Albert Pub 11 Pembridge Street W11 3HQ To 16 July 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 45min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7229 0706.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 June.

The same old story? More on the dark side of sex at the Gate.
Is it well done? Certainly. Is there any point to it? Hard to say. For some, Anna Ledwich’s artful adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle could bring a ping of excitement. For others, a yawning ‘So What?’

At least the subdued colours and controlled acting don’t create the self-important tone that Hollywood stars and elaborate locations gave Stanley Kubrick’s disappointing (if cunningly-titled) film adaptation Eyes Wide Shut.

A rack of unused clothes behind the bed in Helen Goddard’s design suggests the everyday, dressed-up life contrasted by the emotionally and neurotically naked selves of the secret world that opens though a metal gate when the clothing’s swept aside, with two side doors allowing interchanges of characters in a serious version of farce.

The other cinema reference-point is Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, where a member of an affluent, respectable society finds himself involved in a dangerous alternative night-time world. Here, sex and death dominate, and Ledwich moves among them with dream-like fluidity.

The sexual fantasies husband and wife Fridolin (like Schnitzler, a doctor) and Albertine express before his night-time callout to a dying patient lead to a series of promiscuous and violent events, actual or imagined. Ledwich, whose adaptation and direction are aspects of a single enterprise, sometimes has to rely on narration, but the movement and interchange of characters create a sense of Schnitzler’s complexity.

Which is the point of qualification. Whereas Lulu, directed by Ledwich last year at the Gate, is based on two Frank Wedekind plays exploring sexual desire among early 20th-century European middle-class society and throughout societies then and now, Schnitzler’s Freudian exploration (Freud acknowledged their similarities) are closer-geared to the repressions of his class and time – as in the dramatic sexual carousels he’d written much earlier in life, Anatol, Liebelei and Reigen.

So there’s a strong déjà vu risk. A ‘Yes, but’. Don’t we know all this already? Isn’t it discounted nowadays when encountered, subliminally at least, regularly on TV, in films, novels, adverts? And therefore, is it needed again, unmediated for today, in theatre? Yet, if Schnitzler’s argument does still need spelling-out, it’s done here with style.

Nachtigall/Dr Adler: Jon Foster.
Albertine/Masked Woman: Leah Muller.
Fridolin: Luke Neal.
Marianne/Mizzi: Rebecca Scroggs.

Director: Anna Ledwich.
Designer: Helen Goddard.
Lighting: Matt Haskins.
Sound: Adrienne Quartly.
Movement: Georgina Lamb.
Dramaturg: Nic Wass.
Assistant director: Rebecca Frecknall.

2011-06-16 13:31:04

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