dreamplay at the Vaults Theatre
“Men are to be pitied,” declares Agnes, daughter of the god Indra, time and again throughout August Strindberg’s masterpiece Ett Drömspel (A Dream Play). The play was first performed in Stockholm in 1907 to great acclaim and hailed as an important precursor to expressionist drama. The theatre group Baz Productions’ latest show – similar to their previous pieces, where they have found inspiration in both classical drama and Shakespeare – riffs off of Strindberg’s drama and has come up with an intriguing, often mesmerising, but ultimately depressing reflection of the original.
The company’s love of creating theatre within unusual spaces is taken to its limits here with a show that carries its audience along through a darkly surreal and disturbing series of dreamlike tableaux. Whereas A Dream Play seemed like a sort of prophetic vision, an interpretation of a dreamt message, this re-imagining feels like a presentation of the original fever dream as might have been experienced by Strindberg himself. Here the audience becomes Agnes as they descend into the depths of the cave-like interiors of the Vaults Theatre at Waterloo, where the nightmarish atmosphere is heightened by the ominous rumble of the passing trains from the station above. Theatregoers follow a young woman (portrayed by Jade Ogugua) experiencing life, moving – as they move with her physically from space to space within the theatre – from childhood to madness as she finds love, motherhood and the disintegration of her marriage. Standout performances include Michelle Luther’s scene when she plays a sort of gaunt, David Lynch-style caricature of a sultry French housewife, who finds herself in the inescapable control of the whims of a cello (played beautifully by Laura Moody), whose every note has the power to throw her about the stage.
The piece wishes to be, as in the original, a contemplation of the confusion and anguish that is so often manifest in human life – poetically interpreted at a certain point (after several minutes of darkness) with the opening up of the set towards a space in which the entire cast spins and dances about, like tormented spirits, to Laura Moody’s haunting cello. After that however, the play does drag on, as from then the audience is obliged to watch the rest standing up. The feeling of passing through a sort of nightmare is effectively produced, but the experience is hardly uplifting, and one is relieved when the doors finally open to let everyone go.
Photo: Cesare De Giglio
dreamplay is at the Vaults Theatre from 10th September until 1st October 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Dreamplay here: