Monday, 31 December 2012

Strindberg international

So, the centenary of August Strindberg’s death has come to a close. It has been an extraordinary year and I wish I could have spent more of it in Sweden where there was an impressive number of new productions. At least I managed to see Lucky Per’s Journey at Intiman in January and that was a truly marvellous performance. It is a play which is not often done but this production was so inventive and imaginative that I long to find some English producers who could put it on here in England. George Bernard Shaw believed in the play but Strindberg himself thought it was too ‘bourgeois’ (‘brackig’).
One of my favourite Strindberg plays is The Ghost Sonata and I had the good fortune to enjoy three different productions of that play this year alone. One was in my translation at the Chelsea Theatre in London in July, directed by Eldarin Yeong, a young Chinese woman director. She had chosen a very physical approach and this created an eerie, surreal atmosphere. The production was her Master’s Thesis in Directing at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and she had managed to cast only professional actors. Like so many English actors they had found Strindberg odd and difficult. Judging by what I saw at one of the last rehearsals - because I missed the performances in the theatre - we shall see more of this Chinese director.
The second version of  the play was at a small theatre in San Francisco as part of the Strindberg conference there in October. The set and the costumes were more solid and the style of acting was less adventurous but it went down well with the audience on the night I was there. The last production of The Ghost Sonata was in December in Uddevalla where I was giving a talk about Strindberg and it was put on by a dance company. It was totally absorbing and had that marvellous, zany, unpredictable quality. The costumes, the mobile set and the movement were all beautifully in tune with the play. In September, a French ensemble came to London and performed Mademoiselle Julie at the  Barbican, with Juliette Binoche in the lead. It was a contemporary setting with disco dancing and see-through screens which separated the audience from the actors. It was powerful but I didn’t believe in Jean who walked in a stooping fashion with unkempt hair and with a generally rather slovenly appearance. 
Anna Pettersson gave a shortened version of her brilliant performance of Miss Julie in San Francisco and I can now see why the critics raved about it.
Personally, I have given twelve lectures about Strindberg this year and it has been heartening to see how people warm to different aspects on Strindberg. My topics have covered Translation problems, Strindberg and his Women, Faith and Doubt in Strindberg’s works, Strindberg productions in England, The Chamber Plays  and a summary of my experience  with Strindberg. It has been a truly inspirational year and it has been my privilege to talk in London, Seattle, San Francisco, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Uddevalla and Trollhättan.
Apart from that I continue to spread the word to my small group  of students at Southbank International School, London.