Wednesday, April 21, 2010


“You’re supposed to be my wife and I’m supposed to be your husband, and there is a difference between these roles,” the husband Adolph (Tom Burke) says in the current Donmar Warehouse production of Creditors at BAM. Adolph then goes on to accuse his wife Tekla (Anna Chancellor) of treating him like a creditor who makes these very obligations feel like debts that are being called in. It’s a theme that is reiterated as through a kaleidoscope throughout the play. At one moment, Tekla is described as having such a fully formed sensibility that Adolph has never been able to put his imprint on her; in another, he has created her, exhausted himself bolstering her fragile, self-critical ego to the point where he has sacrificed his career as an artist in order to allow her to flourish as a novelist. There is one astonishingly sensual scene in the production (directed by Alan Rickman), which mines the wellsprings of Strindberg’s precocious irony. It occurs when Tekla, returning after an absence, acts out the wantonness that Adolph has irresolutely tried to create in his sculpture of her that sits at center stage. Logic is the scale on which Strindberg plays his dramatic music, a logic that might be looked at as ideational were it not so perfectly evocative of the workings of self-reflexive consciousness—not only thinking, but thinking about thinking. Beyond the war between sexes and the fragile nature of self definition that obviously attracted Ingmar Bergman to Strindberg (could we ever imagine Scenes From a Marriage without the great Strindberg discussions on male and female sexuality?), it is the mind turning against itself that is the great subject of Strindberg’s work, and the territory that the current production at BAM so beautifully underlines. This is one production you don’t want to miss.

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