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Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

The sun may be shining on the wooden huts at the start of David Greig’s version of August Strindberg’s vicious dissection of a power-fuelled love triangle, but things take a darker turn within seconds of boyish artist Adolph swimming ashore. The conversation that follows between Adolph and an older stranger, Gustav, who is staying at the same seaside resort as Adolph and his wife Tekla, moves from befuddlement at the mysterious ways of the opposite sex, to messianic woman-hating bile.

Much of this stems from Stuart McQuarrie’s Gustav, whose cranky paternalism takes advantage of Edward Franklin’s sickly and easily-led Adolph. When Adura Onashile’s smarter and more worldly-wise Tekla arrives, the couple are at loggerheads until Gustav intervenes in Adolph’s absence, with tragic results for all.

Over the play’s three lengthy duologues, Stewart Laing’s production may retain Strindberg’s original nineteenth century roots, but the uncensored extremes of Gustav’s misogyny are frighteningly of the moment. Yin to his Yang, Adolph is possessed with a terminal infantilism that falls willingly into the arms of anyone who’ll take responsibility for his actions. It’s telling that the sculpture he makes here is a wooden mannequin construction he can cling to without it ever answering back. As for Tekla, she may understand her own power, which both men dote on despite themselves, but in the end she is neither saviour or saved.

Tekla’s intimate confrontation with Gustav is seen in close-up by way of live video feed, so every emotional tic is apparent, while each scene is punctuated by Pippa Murphy’s hip-hop-led sound design. A troupe of silent young women prove themselves eminently capable, even though, like Tekla, they’re left to pick up the pieces of whatever’s left behind in this most destructive of amours.

The Herald, May 4th 2018

ends


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