We appreciated the first half of this show much more than the second: but for some design choices, which to us seemed unfortunate, this would have been a feather in Maria Aberg’s cap. As it is, tickets may be returned, and I certainly won’t be recommending this production to any of our friends. My main problem was the excessive amount of blood: although there are a lot of murders in this play, they aren’t all bloody, and the amount of artificial red stuff on show was simply unnecessary, especially for someone as squeamish as myself. Remove the carcass (more on that later), remove the blood, and I’d be more than happy to see this again.
Although this was a preview, this production already had a strength and intensity beyond many other plays. It’s one of those pieces where it doesn’t feel right to say we ‘enjoyed’ it, but it was a deeply enriching experience to have attended this performance, even with such difficult subject matter.
1983 was the last time we saw this play; naturally our memories had faded almost completely in that time. So we were glad to have this opportunity to see it again, and this production in the Minerva certainly gave us some very strong performances to remember.
We stayed in the Minerva for the interval after Miss Julie to see the set being changed. There was a lot to do; they had to move from the kitchen of a country estate in 19th century Sweden to an impecunious artist’s flat in 1960s London in fifteen minutes. The existing set was cleared, with some of the back wall sections being turned around to provide additional wall parts for the new set. The biggest item they brought on was a large piece of construction which had the bedroom upstairs and a screened off studio area underneath; getting this into the right position took some time. With that placed correctly, the rest of the set could be sorted out, which involved placing lots of chairs, a patchwork of rugs, the stairs up to the bedroom and many paintings plus a tree-like sculpture. The door was in the same place as before, but that was the only similarity to the previous set which I could spot. There was also a telephone on the floor on the left side of the stage, a chaise centre back and a wooden block at the very front of the stage on which stood a brightly-coloured Buddha statue.
By Strindberg in a new version by Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Directed by Jamie Glover
(Paired with Black Comedy)
Venue: Minerva Theatre
Date: Monday 7th July 2014
I was the one nodding off this time. Whether it was just tiredness or a lack of energy on stage I don’t know, but this is certainly a difficult play to follow if you don’t give it your full attention. It meanders about and presents us with people whose background and expectations are very different from our own. There’s no clear unravelling of a plot, and if we don’t feel some kind of sympathy or understanding for the main characters it can be a hard struggle to find anything to enjoy. From the pre-show talk with Jamie Glover (a few days later) we learned that the preview phase can bring about many changes as the audience gives its feedback; perhaps we’ll see something different on our next viewing.
It’s early days yet – tomorrow is the press night – and while some areas are patchy and uneven, there are good performances and good ideas which should become more pronounced with practice. The set worked very well for the most part, and this production has the loveliest music I’ve heard for a long time at the RSC. It’s a promising start to Greg’s reign proper, and with David Tennant in the lead role, at least they’re assured of a sell-out run.
The basic set was largely visible during the director’s talk beforehand – more on that story later. A series of screens overlapped behind the thrust, giving a false perspective. They were coloured blue and shimmered, which turned out to be a 3D effect; when the opening images of the inside of a church were projected onto them, the resulting effect was of a vast Gothic chamber – very impressive. Thin metal pillars, like bars, continued the effect, and coming forward from these there were stumpy pillars hanging over the front part of the stage, so it really felt like we were in a huge cathedral space, lit softly to give a misty gloom.
For such a well-known play, it was refreshing to see a distinctly different take on many aspects of the story, coupled with a version of the text which dropped many familiar lines. Of all David Farr’s productions at the RSC that we’ve seen, this one is definitely the strongest, and as this was only the eleventh performance (press night tomorrow) there is plenty of scope for the actors to develop their roles within the overall structure. Mind you, they’re starting from a high baseline, with much to enjoy already in this lively, if a tad over-long, production.