SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE
Belgrade Theatre B2, Coventry
Opened 15 January, 2008
Trevor Nunn has chosen a strange way to
limber up for directing the stage musical of Gone With The Wind in the West End
in April: by returning to Coventry after 40-odd years to use its new
second house for an adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s classic 1973 TV
mini-series and film. Or maybe not that strange: like Rhett and
Scarlett, Johan and Marianne can neither stay together nor stay apart,
and it would not be entirely implausible to hear Iain Glen’s
emotionally semi-detached Johan remark that frankly, my dear, he didn’t
give a damn.
Although care is taken not to make the play either temporally or
geographically specific, its sexual politics and openness of discussion
do feel mildly 1970s and Swedish. Of course, these are Bergman
brushstrokes as well, and adapter Joanna Murray-Smith shares his
predilection for heightened intellectual and emotional articulacy.
In other respects the translation between media is less comfortable.
Nunn’s production and Robert Jones’ spare design keep us close to the
action, but not as close as Bergman. The usual argument about the
greater connection of live theatre is reversed here; the eye of
Bergman’s camera could get much closer and feel more unblinking than a
human spectator – at once intimate and almost surgical. The couple’s
two daughters do not appear onstage (nor do they onscreen in Bergman’s
work), but they crop up repeatedly in the film montages shown between
scenes; this makes their physical absence more conspicuous, which may
be an intentional comment on how little they seem to impinge on Johan
and Marianne’s married life but also seems simply odd.
Glen is excellent at being not quite there
emotionally; when Johan belatedly discovers a heart (thanks to a
23-year-oid mistress), Glen plays him as at once fascinated and
overjoyed, yet not really knowing how to “do” joy or passion. As
Marianne, Nunn’s wife Imogen Stubbs gives a performance which is lucid
but if anything too clear.
Stubbs’ acting is much more transparent than original Marianne Liv
Ullmann, who was far more accomplished at ulteriority and Marianne’s
occasional viciousness. Stubbs seems merely petulant, and when the
couple come to brandy-fuelled blows over the divorce papers, the
increasingly broad drunk-acting of both actors makes the scene seem
like something out of a Jim Cartwright play.
Copyright © Ian
Shuttleworth; all rights
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