There is so much going in this new show from the director-writer team of Stewart Laing and Pamela Carter that even the cavernous space of the Tramway struggles to contain it. As in previous works from the pair’s Untitled Projects, which include Slope and Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner, this collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland takes the form of a dense collage of ideas, images and provocations. The mix results in some fascinating moments, even if the disparate elements don’t entirely cohere.
August Strindberg wrote Creditors in 1888 as part of the creative torrent that also produced his most famous work, Miss Julie. Both plays exhibit the visceral dialogue and intense exploration of shifts in power within relationships for which the prolific and influential Swedish playwright is known, while also giving vent to his mordant and rather contradictory view of women. He was known to refer to Siri von Essen, the first of his three wives, as “the vampire”, though he also maintained that “the presence of women tends to elevate men”.
First published in The Times, Friday August 21 2015
James Hogg’s 1824 novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is a key text of the Scottish literary canon: its fingerprints can be seen on everything from Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde to the performance videos of Douglas Gordon. Yet this co-production from Stewart Laing’s Untitled Projects in association with the National Theatre of Scotland and Tramway is no reverent adaptation. This, after all, is the director and company that brought us the immersive The Salon Project and a version of Genet’s The Maids that cast young men in the leads and featured a question-and-answer session with the director midway through act two.
Shakespeare’s early revenge tragedy was considered theatrically beyond the pale until recently, and it’s not hard to see why. Riven with scenes of torture, rape, dismemberment, brutal murder and cannibalism, it takes a special kind of talent to prevent the bloodbath that takes place onstage from seeming gratuitously nasty or, worse, unintentionally funny.