by Ingmar Bergman translated by Karts Woudstra.

Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS to 17 November 2013.
Thu-Sun 7.15pm.
Runs 3hr 50min One interval.

TICKETS: 0207 638 8891.
Review: William Russell 14 November.

Coruscating theatre.
Whatever one feels about Ingmar Bergman’s movie, let alone the television series he created – this lengthy examination of an apparently happy marriage in breakdown has never enthralled me on stage or screen.

There is no denying Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s staging is superb; director Ivo van Hove handles the material in a breathtaking way. That is not say it is not a very long night.

The action is set in three rooms around a central greenroom from which the actors enter. Six actors play the warring couple, Marianne and Johan. The audience, split in three, sees the couples in different order depending on where they are seated; you could start at the end of the affair as easily as at the beginning.

The rooms are set on the Barbican stage; the audience in each can hear the uproar from the others. It sounds odd. It works. Then comes a surprise.

In the second half the stage setting is stripped, the audience seated round a vast central acting area. The three couples perform as one, a tour de force by anybody’s standards. Things get violent; speeches are shared, or possibly triplicated.

The actors are now miked to make it possible to hear what the couples addressing the audience the other sides are saying. The players are all good. The three women convincingly present Marianne at different ages. There is no way the men are the same man, the actors being of different stature and looks, rendering belief harder.

The plot is simple – the couple are married, unfaithful, divorce, marry other people, have children, have lovers, but somehow cannot do without one another. Whether one is entranced by this lengthy Scandinavian bout of matrimonial angst is a matter of choice.

The film worked largely because of the performances of Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson. Had the couple in this version brained one another early on, I would not have cared. But to have missed seeing this magnificent company transform Bergman’s material into a pulsating evening of theatre would have been a crime. Blood flows, no hostages are taken. It’s in-yer-face theatre with a vengeance.

Johan: Roeland Ferhout, Hugo Koolschijnm Alwin Pulinckx.
Marianne: Janni Goslinga, Suzanne Grotenhuis, Hadewych Minis.
Katarina: Laura de Boer.
Peter: Benjamin de Wit.
Eva: Sigrid ten Napel.
Madame Jacobi/Mother: Celia Nufaar.

Direction: Ivo von Hove.
Designer: Jan Verseyveld.
Dramaturg: Bart van den Eynde.

2013-11-17 10:39:55

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