Writer: August Strindberg
Adapter: David Grieg
Director: Stewart Laing
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
Revenge is, as they say, best served cold. Patiently savoured over a lengthy amount of time. Along with its key partner in crime; manipulation, the pair comprise the central themes of August Strindberg’s Creditors. Written in 1888, now adapted again to the Royal Lyceum’s stage, the path to revenge gathers more traction as a turbulent road towards hysteria.
Thrashing out of the cold waters, Adolph pulls himself on the decking as a suit-clad figure continues to read his novel. Aware of the innocent youths around him, Adolph places his paint-stained shirt back on and engages the man in conversation. It doesn’t take long to become familiar with Strindberg’s use of language. Acerbic in nature, the smartly dressed deceiver is known as Gustav. At first, it is unclear if this presence is physical, or simply an anxious manifestation of sexual insecurities. As time moves on, Tekla, Adolph’s wife, too is preyed upon by Gustav’s methods to seek revenge on what we learn is his ex-wife.
The absurdity of Gustav’s malevolence lies not in his outright villainy, but rather the sleek nature of his charm. His own inability to create art of any form fuels his envy further. Berating Adolph’s sculpture as no more than an ‘antiqued medium’. It is in his own inability to comprehend modernity that we start to see the subtext of Strindberg’s work. The levels of misogyny and melodrama are not simply dramatic tools. The misogyny, whilst still relevant, feels outdated in some of the more severe outbursts. The adaptation uses this not to focus on the issue, but to highlight its absurdity and the real threats of revenge and jealousy.
Our trio of performers, alongside the added girl scout troop all perform spectacularly. Edward Franklin’s Adolph is paired strikingly with the freshness of Adura Onashile as Tekla. Whilst Adolph’s self-loathing Is clear, masterfully pathetic even at times, Onashile breezes into the midway point with ease. Within moments we can register the kind of character she is, her personality and that whilst Adolph’s insecure fears are irrational, they may not be 100% unfounded. It is though, within Stuart McQuarrie’s Gustav we find the catalyst. The transition Gustav makes from piercing manipulator into slithering charmer is both vile but expertly carried out. Torturing Adolph with his backwards metaphors. Spouting hypocritical statements surrounding the most volatile of masculinities all the while unable to forget the women he so obviously idolises himself. His own jealousy becoming clearer as a false shield to his own insecurities towards women in general, his hatred spilling out. Strindberg’s writing here is phenomenal, highlighting masculinities ability to prey on insecurity, berating a man for considering a woman above him, yet to also fall victim to its own traps.
Compacted into a single running Act, further submerging us into the chaotic nature surrounding the audience. At 150 minutes, the show certainly suffers from being a one-act performance. With such an intense barrage of language, verbal fencing can overload the mind quite quickly. Adapted by David Grieg the script still contains a variety of the superb psychological foreplay found inside the text.
Strindberg can be challenged for his writing heavily relying on several of the renowned buzzwords: Misogyny, Modernity and Melodrama. In truth, they are all prevalent, though a touch more creative than their baseline counterparts. Creditors suffers from its own accomplishments. Its use of language is exquisite but at times jarring, it’s compact nature makes it a burden to watch in moments. Despite all of this, the Lyceum’s production of Creditors is an intelligently adapted piece which requires thought, laughs and openness.
Runs until 12 May 2018 | Image: Contributed