La Ronde at the BunkerCultureTheatre
Max Gill’s non-gender specific adaptation of Schnitzler’s La Ronde is relevant and imaginative. A physical wheel of fortune governs the action: four actors play the cast of ten and their roles are selected by a roulette. This randomised casting process does not consider race, sexuality, class or gender when choosing actors, crossing established social boundaries and breaking down walls. Testimonies from a random selection of London inhabitants were collected to inspire each of the scenes, which involves a sexual encounter of some kind that delves into the psychological experience of sex, its place in the imagination and its consequences in society.
The wheel of fortune that dominates the backdrop embodies the mechanics of desire. That desire can never be broken or sated seems to be what the play tells us. The tantalising presence of absence is evoked through having some actors perform while the other two wait for their turn on stage. When Leemore Marrett Jr repeatedly lost out to his fellow cast members the crowd became agitated and then frustrated, cheering him on each time as he continued to miss out. Admittedly, this is a risk when fortune’s wheel becomes the casting director: chance and audience satisfaction rarely peacefully coexist. However, it forces the crowd to feel as the actors and characters do. They endure the frustration of suspended desire that, once sated when Marett Jr performed, still left them craving more.
The acting is skillful, especially given the challenging nature of the work. The piece feels both immensely human – it captures the dynamics of intimacy – and also alien. Each scene ends sharply, performers physically change out of their roles, stripping to their underwear. They become a blank canvas ready to have new clothes and a new persona put on them. These dress changes are accompanied by flashing green and silver lights and an electronic soundtrack, making the process oddly redolent of The Sims; it is intriguing to watch, and disturbing.
La Ronde is worth a watch. It normalises and celebrates diversity, which is important in the political context of 2017.
La Ronde is at The Bunker from 11th February until 11th March 2017, for further information or to book visit here