David Greig’s visceral rhetoric seldom fails to pack a punch and his adaptation of August Strindberg’s Creditors is no exception. Widely regarded as the 19th century playwright’s most mature work, his dissection of three wounded souls claws mercilessly at the perennial scab of toxic romance.
Director Stewart Laing’s charming set design may appear idyllic enough at first glance; however upon closer inspection there is a distinctly disjointed feel to this beach hut retreat. A murky backdrop of cracked hills looms above the angles of dangerously sloping boardwalks and wonky benches, all of which contribute to the atmosphere of instability and isolation. This eerie ambience is underscored by the pulsing heartbeat of the waves licking at the shoreline. Our story is punctuated with the natural soundscape of this lonely beach as Adolph (Edward Franklin), Gustav (Stuart McQuarrie) and Tekla (Adura Onashile) unravel in a desperate attempt to satiate their own carnal desires. A viscous battle of sexual psychology ensues as our characters each struggle to sustain their sense of self.
Strindberg’s fear and fascination of women - in equal measure - is apparent from the outset. Whilst waiting for his wife’s return to their holiday beach hut, Adolph’s encounter with a mysterious stranger infects him with an unease which permeates his initial worship for her. Tekla’s absence is heavily felt when Gustav calls Adolph’s masculine role into question as he manipulates the younger man into a state of cursed indecision. Adolph moulds his latest work of art as they talk, a sculpture intended as the form of Tekla, creating a delightful parallel as he shapes his piece to his vision of perfection.
Indeed, themes of hiding behind art and the exploration of public image vs private intimacy continue throughout, climaxing in a film noir streamed live from the cabin’s interior. The format’s nostalgic quality highlights the dreamy perception of ideal romance in jarring contrast with an uglier side of love.
McQuarrie and Onashile handle this shift in medium with effortless precision, teasing the audience with occasional appearances at the window as they engage in a heart-chafing tug of war.
Stewart McQuarrie’s portrayal of Gustav oozes with surreptitious cunning as he slithers his way deep into the psyche of the married couple. Ever the enchantress, Tekla’s vulnerability lies in her inability to resist fresh temptations, and Adura Onashile captures a fierce embodiment of Tekla’s domineering nature. However, it is Adolph’s boyish naivety and helpless infatuation that leaves us utterly devastated; Edward Franklin is electric as he executes his role with sparky finesse.
One can’t help but notice that these people’s attempts to reach one another are much like trying to save a drowning man; once the struggle is exhausted, you’ll go down together eventually...
Creditors is showing at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh until 12th May.
Written by @CatMcFarlane