Creditors @ Lyceum, Edinburgh
David Greig's adaptation of August Strindberg's Creditors is a surprisingly current look at the pain that relationships can cause
August Strindberg’s play Creditors originally premiered in Copenhagen's Dagmar Theatre in 1889, yet this production, adapted by David Greig and directed and designed by Stewart Laing, feels surprisingly current. It tackles the way relationships can tear the heart and soul, and physically and emotionally leave people barren, at a loss, in debt or credit to those who they have given and taken from.
The story is a taut and complicated love triangle between husband Adolph (Edward Franklin), wife Tekla (Adura Onashile), and ex-husband Gustav (Stuart McQuarrie), and the intense, claustrophobic nature of their relationships with each other as anxieties, doubt and jealousy take root and fester.
With a set which never changes – a holiday retreat, separated by water, with the promise of only a few boats on and off the island a day – there’s no escape or release from the brewing drama which a change of scene could offer. The only moment the audience has to take a breath comes when a set of girl guides, in traditional uniform and wide-brimmed hats, march across the stage and navigate or wave flags to the beat of a modern urban song. It's a fleeting glance of the innocence and simplicity of youth as a counterweight to the messy and complicated adult relationships being picked apart between the trio.
As Gustav, the talented McQuarrie is every inch the menacing, manipulative tyrant who toys with the emotions of Adolph and Tekla, playing with each of them like puppets as he sets about destroying them one suggestive comment at a time. But McQuarrie is also excellent at bringing dark humour into the dialogue, providing light relief from the emotionally thick cloud which sits heavily on the brows of the audience.
With most action happening centre stage outside the holiday home, it’s an interesting method when the drama moves inside the room, filmed live and then shown via a projector screen hanging from the top of the stage. This is an effective way of helping the audience feel as though they are eavesdropping on both the conversation and increasing sexual tension between Gustav and Tekla, just as Adolph is as he listens distraught outside the door.
A psychological sparring match, Creditors bristles with tension as it teeters between dark humour and emotional torment as the battle in each relationship unfolds. A gripping production which leaves the audience significantly in its debt.