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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Creditors
Donmar Warehouse Theatre Autumn 2008

August Strindberg's plays fall into two groups - the dreamlike experimental ones and the very realistic, usually misogynistic ones. Creditors falls quite definitely in the second category.

A physically and emotionally weak man is convinced by a new friend that all his problems are caused by his leeching, vampirish wife, who is undoubtedly being untrue to him as well.

The friend's motives, and his seeming relish in twisting the knife, are eventually explained by a surprise twist that you will probably guess well in advance. Let me just say that it is the tormentor who gradually becomes the centre of the play and that his treatment of the man, and later of the wife, is almost a masturbation fantasy of revenge.

It is, and is meant to be, an uncomfortable play to sit through, because we come to realise that we are watching pure hatred up there on stage, and are never quite sure whether it is the character's or the author's.

Few who know his other plays can be surprised at the depth of Strindberg's hatred of women, as demonstrated in this play, though some of the avenger's more extreme lines generate nervous giggles in their excess (There are also some intentional jokes in David Greig's new version, about which more later.)

Certainly on that level, of making us feel the uneasiness of witnessing someone else's emotional nakedness, this production by Alan Rickman is a success. Just be forewarned that this is not going to be a lot of fun.

Other things about the production are less successful. Ben Stones' sterile set suggests a hospital ward rather than a resort hotel lobby. There is an artificial, literary quality to David Greig's language which gives all the actors some difficulty, as they always seem to be reciting memorised speeches, not talking naturally.

That apart. Owen Teale (avenger), Tom Burke (husband) and Anna Chancellor (wife) go far toward capturing the raw emotions - anger, pain and lust - that are placed on display.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Creditors - Donmar 2008