THE BLUE ROOM
by David Hare freely adapted from La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler.
Theatre By The Lake (Studio) Lakeside CA12 5DJ In rep to 9 November 2011.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 017687 74411.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 August.
Love’s labours and itchy desires played in suitably intimate studio detail.
Even great artists have difficulties. At the end of his career film-maker Luis Bunuel had a bust-up with the leading lady of his final film That Obscure Object of Desire. His solution, suggested originally as a joke, was to split the role between two actors. Even if the distribution of scenes was random, the different personalities of Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina brought a divided sense of encouragement and rejection towards Mathieu, the old man pursuing ‘her’.
It’s probably determination to give everyone in this season’s Keswick ensemble a role each night that led director Ian Forrest to split the female roles in David Hare’s updated version of Arthur Schnitzler’s Reigen (better-known by its French film-title La Ronde) between two actors.
Usually this series of sexual encounters is played by one man and one woman. The stories change one character each time, until returning to the young woman seen on the streets with a taxi-driver at the start. Here, Matt Addis, though altering accent and manner between callous, nervous and suave, provides a sense of male continuity up against two sorts of female personality.
Polly Lister plays the desolate girl, asking money for sex as a necessary afterthought; what she really wants is love. Lister’s also the Married Woman facing a cold douche of guilt for her affair, while her politician husband is arrogantly sure of her fidelity, despite his canoodlings elsewhere, and the Actress who needs applause.
Between these come Olivia Mace’s characters. Her Au Pair and Model share a challenging assurance. The first particularly, in Forrest’s minutely detailed direction, uses sexual appeal to attack the family which exploits and underpays her at its weakest point, their sexually inexperienced student son, in a battle where the use of territory as power – who moves at whose insistence- would do credit to Harold Pinter.
Addis doesn’t convince vocally in his character here, but elsewhere is strong. Yet it’s Mace’s modern servant-girl that’s memorable, along with Lister’s Girl, the briefly-seen dispossessed person among the affluent and established – who seem more a sliver of society now than in Schnitzler’s day a century ago.
Cab Driver/Student/Politician/Playwright/Aristocrat: Matt Addis.
Girl/Married Woman/Actress: Polly Lister.
Au Pair/Model: Olivia Mace.
Director: Ian Forrest.
Designer: Elizabeth Wright.
Lighting: Jo Dawson.
Sound: Matt Hall.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.
Assistant director: Mary Papadima.