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Creditors at The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 2nd May 2018 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

We all know from today’s Scandi-TV series that, when it comes to drama, our Nordic cousins have a dark side.

But this is nothing new. Ibsen, regarded as one of Europe’s greatest writers, is hardly a barrel of laughs, and Strindberg is no different.

Although Creditors, written in 1888, is classed as a tragi-comedy, its laugh-out-loud moments are far outweighed by the melancholic characters in David Greig’s adaptation, which was commissioned by and first presented at London’s Donmar Warehouse in 2008.

Greig, artistic director of The Royal Lyceum Theatre Company, takes it seriously, and rightly so as there is nothing funny about the personalities entwined in this tale of male dominance and revenge.

Set in a Swedish seaside holiday resort, Stewart Laing’s set is as stylised as his direction. His narrow, raked wooden pontoons hardly make for easy walking, and the four girl guides (featuring Lyceum Creative Learning participants) who appear between scenes are like automatons, maybe mirroring the moving sculpture artist Adolph is making? I don’t know. They are very weird but do add colour and substance to the production.

The play begins with Adolph hauling himself out of a pool and lying half-dead on a pontoon. Nearby an older man sits reading a book, but it’s not long before he engages in conversation with the dripping wet Adolph, and things then begin to take a sinister turn.

Acting as his ‘doctor’, the older man, Gustav, questions Adolph about his marriage and his masculinity and eventually turns him against his wife. The dialogue is vicious and malicious and Adolph, a weak young man given to maladies, is given to believe that he will become epileptic if he sleeps with his wife (this is one of the laugh-out-loud moments)!

As the manipulative Gustav, Stuart McQuarrie is very much the devil on Adolph’s shoulder. His venom leaks from every pore and when we learn of his intentions all becomes plain. On the other hand, Edward Franklin as Adolph is a quivering mess of emotion. At times I wanted to cradle him as I would a child; at others I just wanted to give him a good slap!

The object of both men’s interest, Adolph’s wife Tekla, is the strongest of all three characters (though obviously not 100 per cent!) and Adura Onashile rises to the occasion with a compelling performance (though at one point she walked across a pontoon onto the stage – didn’t she get her feet wet?!).

Pippa Murphy’s sound is a bit spasmodic – one minute we hear the sound of lapping waves, the next all is silent - I don’t think the sea suddenly stops moving! And at one time it is a bit distracting. I didn’t much like the repetitive songs, either, though they did add to the atmosphere of growing insanity.

I very much like the presentation in the second act, however, involving an onstage camera-operator and a black and white screen.

Creditors may not be to everyone’s taste but it is certainly an interesting and thought-provoking study of human relationships and in this context stretches the boundaries of entertainment.

Creditors is at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh until May 12.

Box office: 0131 248 4848

www.lyceum.org.uk

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