by August Strindberg adapted by Laurie Slade from a literal translation by N Erichsen (1898)
Trafalgar Studios (Studio 2) 4 Whitehall SW1A 2DY To 11 April 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7632.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 March.
Mutually assured destruction, domestic style, from Scandinavia.
Jagged Fence Productions have mounted fine productions, notably at Southwark Playhouse and the Finborough. It’s a sign of the high quality such fringe venues achieve that this production slots easily into geographical and managerial West End territory.
August Strindberg has a reputation among the most jagged of playwrights, especially for misogyny. Nor was he one for sitting on any fence. Fortuitously, Abbey Wright’s production introduces Laurie Slade’s free version – seen on the main-stage at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre in 2012 – to London as George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman plays at the Lyttelton Theatre.
Changing attitudes have made it hard now to feel the shock Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Ghosts had produced though Europe during the decade before Strindberg’s 1887 play. Similarly, it’s difficult to see Strindberg’s supposed hatred of women in terms of his own self-torturing mind. And it’s too easy to judge him by the three realistic plays about violent male/female relationships performed today, ignoring the large historical dramas, and the dream-like expressionism and intimate chamber plays which anticipate theatre to come.
Shaw’s play lays out more objectively the different priorities he identified in men and women. But Shaw didn’t ‘do’ sex. Strindberg did emotional laceration and it’s the intensity of mismatched desires that brings disaster, a desire for ownership of the other person that can never be satisfied, and hardly even be admitted in society of the time.
Wright’s production soon gets down to intense physicality, as the Captain, having disciplined a junior officer for rolls in the hay, is seduced by his wife’s gentle touch into mutual passion, from which he breaks off, remembering the male role in society. Husband and wife are both confused, their emotional intensity bringing violence, she threatening him with a straitjacket, he prepared to blow his brains out in his beloved daughter’s presence.
His old nurse, played with quiet, sympathetic anxiety by June Watson, provides a rounded humanity amid cooler playing which gives a sense of detachment, especially on a stage without domestic period trappings. The gain is a clarity that helps redraw the lines of conflict in Strindberg’s drama.
Nöjd: Thomas Coombes.
Laura: Emily Dobbs.
Captain: Alex Fearns.
Doctor: Barnaby Sax.
Bertha: Millie Thew.
Nurse: June Watson.
Pastor: Robert Wilfort.
Director: Abbey Wright.
Designer: James Turner.
Lighting: Gary Bowman.
Sound/Composer: Angus MacRae.
Composer: Simon Slater.
Music Supervisor: Bryan Hersey.
Assistant director: Billy Coughlin.
Associate lighting: Dan Street.
23 March: ‘Feminism in the age of Fifty Shades of Grey’ (and The Sun’s page 3). Panel: Natalie Collins (Founder, Fifty Shades is Domestic Abuse campaign); Caroline Criado-Perez (journalist, feminist campaigner); Lucy Ann Holmes (Founder, No More Page 3); Polly Neate (CEO, Women’s Aid); Tim Robey (Telegraph Film Critic) and Polly Toynbee (Guardian columnist and ex-BBC Social Affairs Editor).
30 March ‘Parenting Rights: Does Mummy or Daddy Know Best?’ and equal rights for mothers and fathers. Panel: Matt O’Connor (Founder, Fathers 4 Justice); Sally Peck (Editor of the Telegraph’s new parenting hub, Mother Tongue) and The Father cast members Alex Ferns, Robert Wilfort and Thomas Coombes with other guests to be confirmed.
7 April ‘Women in the Arts: What’s being done about gender equality’. Panel: Stella Duffy (theatre-maker, campaigner and Creator of Fun Places); Alistair Smith (Editor, The Stage), Stephanie Street (actor, writer, Founder Member of The Act of Change project); Emily Dobbs (actor in and producer of The Father), June Watson (Actor in The Father) and Abbey Wright (Director of The Father).
These events are free and open to ticket-holders to any Trafalgar Studios performance of The Father.
They will be chaired by Terri Paddock.