by Friedrich Dürrenmatt translated by Alistair Beaton.
Ustinov Studio Theatre Royal Saw Close BA1 1ET To 11 October 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 01225 448844.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 October.
Clean and precise view of a marital morass.
Thank goodness Friedrich Dürrenmatt turned his post-war sense of absurdity, and his skill in comic means to a tragic dénouement, towards Strindberg’s most relentlessly gloomy attack on marriage. It’s the Swedish dramatist’s marital Endgame, plot and circumstance reduced to the minimum as army captain Edgar, a failure in his career despite his empty boasts, and his soured wife Alice, slug-out their misery and despair in verbal assaults on each other.
Remote from any society – they communicate with the rest of the world by telex – visited only by long-time acquaintance Kurt, whose arrival soon turns from a source of apparent pleasure to an extension of the battleground – they prefigure the equally secluded marital combatants George and Martha in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which opened this summer’s Bath theatre season.
Dürrenmatt formalises the contest, announcing each section as a round in a fight match. Having entered the stage down a short ladder, as if to bare-knuckle combat in a pit, Greg Hicks has no sooner announced the opening round than he and Sally Dexter’s Alice slump assertively into the silent tedium of life in the evenings.
The surprise of their instant boredom and its sustained silence offer a glimpse of comedy within a Beckett-like dissolution. The servants are leaving. There’s no money, barely any food and every sentence is an accusation, open or implied.
The actors pick-up comic hints as Play Strindberg plays with Strindbergian ferocity in Alistair Beaton’s lightly-modernised translation. Designers Max Hall and Ruth Jones people their pit with characters separated by unassertively modernised clothing.
Hicks, scruffily unshaved, careless and rough-mannered, wears his military uniform like a faded costume from a neglected dressing-up box. Dexter’s Alice responds, curled protectively in her colourful dress, with stale, acid elegance. When Richard Clothier’s Kurt arrives, smiling and in a suit, there seems the possibility of renewal.
But he’s soon rebuffed and dragged down into their mutual combat. Nancy Meckler’s production focuses on the needless but inevitable tragedy rather than Dürrenmatt’s ironic detachment. For such a rarely performed play, however, this is a valuable, finely-performed addition to the ever-exciting Ustinov seasons.
Edgar: Greg Hicks.
Alice: Sally Dexter.
Kurt: Richard Clothier.
Director: Nancy Meckler.
Designers: Max Jones, Ruth Hall.
Lighting: Tina ~MacHugh.
Sound: Andrea J Cox.
Musical Director/Arranger: Jon Nicholls.
Choreographer: Heather Hobens.
Script Adviser: Martin Henning.
Assistant director: Alice Malin.