Andy Jordan Productions, Elysium Theatre Company
Strindberg’s Women: The Stronger, and Storm (London Premiere): Two plays by August Strindberg
Translated by Michael Meyer
Jermyn Street Theatre to 26 November
Runs 1h 45m with interval
Review: Tom Aitken 8 11 16
About the women, but about more than the women
Although there are strong women’s roles in both these short plays, the collective title Strindberg’s Women is a little misleading, since the central character in Storm (much the longer) is The Gentleman. He has, in his view absolutely unjustly, been abandoned by a woman.
In flashback, however, we are invited to notice that in coming across as dominating and vigorously, unpleasant character, he does not merely blame a woman for all his troubles and unpleasantness but is very ready to extend his opprobrium to his brother, who does not accept his denunciations of his lost lady and urges him to make up with her.
All this takes place in a strange lodging house, occupied mysteriously by people who never seem to meet and barely know each other. This reflects, mysteriously but very powerfully, Strindberg’s belief that human nature was an amalgam of never quite articulated or understood impulses.
The title of the first, very short play, The Stronger, is probably deliberately ambiguous. Two women are having coffee in a hostelry of some sort. One, an actress — the stronger or, at any rate, the most hectoring of the two — has recently left her husband. Her companion is trying to persuade her that she’d have done better had she forgiven him: ‘He would have given you a home away from the theatre’.
As the conversation continues we learn that the companion speaking up for the man is not an entirely disinterested party. This explains the exchange when the actress complains ‘How I hate you. You sit there not caring,’ provoking the reply, ‘Your loss has been my gain.’
And later, when the actress comments waspishly ‘I wondered why you were silent,’ her companion’s reply is again sharp and to the point: ‘Perhaps it was because you have nothing to say.’
Both productions go straight to the heart of the plays, and staging and acting hold the audience’s attention throughout. The overall experience is well worth an evening out.
Cast: The Stronger
Madame X: Sara Griffiths
Mademoiselle Y: Alice Frankham
The Gentleman: Paul Herzberg
The brother: Robin Kingsland
Gerda: Sara Friffiths
Louise: Alice Frankham
Strong: Douglas McFerran
Agnes: Abbiegale Duncan
Other roles: Paul Heelis
Director: Jacob Murray
Designer: Emma Marguerite Lynch
Lighting and Sound Designer: Francis Watson-Laflamme