"The Dance Of Death" by August Strindberg
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre
This is a surprising play, as well as a new one to me, as is the writer, Strindberg. Surprising because from the brief description I had, it was to be a bit of a depressing affair. Well it's not because there's a lot of comedy here, in the most depressing of situations.
"Dance Of Death" can be translated in a couple of ways. Edgar is ill and is due to celebrate his and Alice's 25th wedding anniversary but we discover that he is ill, although he has tried to hide it from Alice. It could be the merry dance they lead each other towards his imminent death, or it could just be the death of their marriage.
They insult and pick away at each other verbally,and at times physically, insulting the staff and each other. Introduce into this volatile mix Alice's cousin, Kurt, who's support for the pair changes like the wind.
Purposely I read nothing about this play, or Strindberg, just so that i'd get the full un-cushioned or pre-warned affect of the play, and that's the way I like it. Strindberg seems to write in the same way as some of the great Northern writers, because he creates real characters who you can believe in, characters who have a certain freshness and truth to them, this automatically breaks down any barriers between the audience and the character in the quickest of time.
Fraser Wanless as the retired artillery captain and tyrant is wonderful, and possibly one of the best roles I've seen Fraser portray. He made me believe the character, his vitriol and nastiness towards his wife. He's a liar, the opposite of what you'd expect from a man of his calibre, as in the first half he comes across, or gives the image of having no money. In the second half, he's quite flush!
In the second half, Alice, who was a former actress, seems to be a stronger person and less caring and human, until the final twist when her would be future world seems to be crashing down around her, and Edgar gets his way again. Alice is played by Kareema Sims, and it's lovely to see both quality actors letting rip with some emotional scenes. At first it seemed like Alice may be a weak character but the slow burn soon dispelled that idea.
Kurt, played by Graeme Jennings, is also a slow burner. He looks decidedly embarrassed, like a naughty school boy, when Edgar is ripping into him at the start but it is in act two that the tiger in Kurt was released. Again some powerful words and scenes from Kurt, especially as his relationship with Alice evolved and exploded.
The fourth character is the maid, Jenny, also doubling as Maya, played by Danielle Wain.
Directed by Paul Johnson, he manages to bring the emotion out of the actors, and the subtle sideways glances from Edgar and Alice at the start and end of the play, just adds that little something which makes you believe that these two, even though they profess to want the other out of their lives, they do have feelings for each other.
A simple set, in the upper part of the theatre, it doesn't add anything to the play, but it's not supposed to enhance the play or the script. Oliver Lovely created the set to be unobtrusive and it did the job it was meant to, and let's face it, without the simple table, chairs, chaise longue and piano, the actors would be upstanding throughout.
The sound design of the effects were subtle but effective in setting the atmosphere and creating an external space away from the performing area. painting pictures in the viewer's imagination.Designed by Gareth Morris.
An interesting play, which is something that the Lace Market Theatre do so well. I know that I'm in for an education whenever I'm at the Lace Market Theatre and their choice of productions need applauding for being just a little different and brave in their choices.
"The Dance Of Death" is on at the Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 5 March 2016.