Creditors – Review

Stuart Laing has achieved a remarkable fusion between classical drama and avantgarde theatre in his current Lyceum production of David Greig‘s version of Strindberg‘s “Creditors.”

This powerful revenge story is the interaction of three characters – Gustav, his ex-wife Tekla, and her new husband Adolph. With unity of time, place and action – the lakeside cabin of a Swedish resort during the course of one evening – the play’s classical form is given a modern twist.

Laing has added a Greek Chorus of stony-faced Girl Guides, who express the mood as it unfolds, with the addition of haunting, strange almost melancholy music by Swedish rapper Yung Lean.

The effect is stunning.

First they are pathfinders, seeking the way ahead as Adolph does, then they are signallers,waving flags and seeking help. They then raise up fire, cleansing and all-consuming. Finally, in true tragedy style they are stretcher bearers for our hero Adolph.

The power that Gustav has over the other two is the psychological nub of this drama. Stuart McQuarrie brings to the part the perfect mix of confidence and menace – he knows how to charm and manipulate, to persuade and condemn. Revenge is being sought for the loss of his wife to Adolph. By dint of belittling Adolph, his art, his choices, his relationship with Tekla, Gustav is able to make Adolph feel weak and enfeebled, prone to fits and loss of control. It is a form of voodoo suggestion, an undermining of his self-belief. In the same way he later brainwashes Tekla into believing she is still in love with him, before cutting her down scathingly as a flighty narcissistic woman.

Acura Onashile brings an interesting visual metaphor to the role of Tekla. Her striking hairstyle, half gracious lady, half punk, mirrors her complex character. With Adolph she is assured and confident. He is “little brother”, she fells free to enjoy the attentions of any other young men she might meet. With Gustav she is manipulated and compliant, tricked by him into feelings that may not be there.

That Adolph is babied by Tekla and easy meat for the duplicitous Gustav makes him a weak and unlikely hero. He is young, he is easily broken. Edward Franklin gives the role a light and vulnerable touch, visibly crumbling as he eavesdrops on the conversation of Tekla and Gustav. We too are eavesdropping, thanks to the technique of this conversation being projected on screen in black and white, giving a curious distancing, a theatrical alienation. Overall it’s unsettling but effective.

It’s a bold production of a bold text, finely nuanced and filled with half acknowledged meaning, challenging theatre, almost two hours long, no break. Meaty, thought-provoking, but never boring.

Lyceum Theatre until May 12th

Photo Credits: Peter Dibdin



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