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Dances Of Death

Gate Theatre

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#11 Honoured Guest

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 02:55 PM

The Financial Times also awards three stars, and reports a running time of about 2h30m. The reviewer gives the impression of not having much wanted to attend in the first place. My hunch is that people's appreciation of this production will be directly proportional to the intensity of their prior curiosity. So, I expect Epicoene to come away very content to have been acquainted with the second play while Pharaoh's number 2 may be underwhelmed.

#12 Epicoene

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 06:42 AM

From the reviews I see the last time both plays were done together it was with Olivier and Geraldine McEwan - seems an ill-assorted pairing for some reason.

#13 mallardo

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 09:45 PM

One wonders why Strindberg wrote a sequel to Dance of Death - something to do with money presumably.  It certainly sheds no new light on the characters nor does it have much dramatic interest in itself.  Howard Brenton's conflation of the two plays turns out to be a somewhat tedious exercise, not particularly well staged but generally well acted.  Michael Pennington as the Captain is superb, reveling in the orgy of nastiness. Christopher Ravenscroft as Kurt is almost as good.  Alas, Linda Marlowe as Alice takes the approach that an ex-actress is always "acting" and her performance is a series of poses and attitudes.  A problem is that all three seem much too old in the second half where their children - nicely played by Eleanor Wyld and Edward Franklin - look a lot more like their grandchildren.
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#14 Nicholas

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Posted 20 June 2013 - 11:36 PM

I've never been to the Gate theatre before, and it's lovely and everyone there is very friendly.  And Michael Pennington is superb, with Christopher Ravenscroft almost catching him up.  Now...

I remember reading The Father and thinking Strindberg is someone in whose company I want to spend as little time as possible.  I missed The Dance of Death over Christmas, so assumed that if it's a play worth reviving twice in six months I'm in the wrong.  Hmm.  It's an odd one, and I'm going to ask anyone who knows about Strindberg to tell me why I'm wrong about disliking him.  To me, this play was a straight version of Vicious (I was going to say without the jokes, but, well...).  There's a couple who don't get on, at all.  They continue to not get on, at all.  At the end of act one, they don't get on, at all.  In this I'm sure there's something I'm missing, but I'm not alone in missing it because a pair just ahead of me started whispering and every time the couple re-emerged in act two to not get on, at all, they'd rock with suppressed laughter and I couldn't disagree.  I'm not saying I have to feel friendly towards the characters to enjoy the play, or it can't deal with nastiness, but it came across to me as rather one note.

Now, this may be me being very wrong.  In many ways it worked as a production, as I quite agreed with Kurt's statement that poison coarsed through the room to the extent that I almost didn't return in the interval as I did not want to spend more time with these abhorrent savage brutal people and their problem which was they're horribly cruel and assume everyone is.  They didn't strike me as recognisably like human beings and instead seemed like cyphers for cruelty against cruelty, and that lack of realism stung.  I wonder if that's fair or not, as good plays about boredom depict boredom whilst bad plays about boredom inspire boredom, so I don't know whether a play about people emitting a poisonous air should itself emit that air.  There was a comment by the great Ingmar Bergman about how he only understood the mood and not the words, and so I think I might have just been unprepared for the onslaught of mood.  I just really did not like the mood, and couldn't even say I admire the piece for its evocation of mood.  It's not a bad piece of theatrecraft and all involved at the Gate ought to be pleased with themselves, it's just Strindberg and I clearly make bad bedfellows.

#15 Honoured Guest

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Posted 21 June 2013 - 10:30 AM

I haven't seen this production and have only seen a weak fringe production of the first play. My comment on your experience of this production of the two plays is that the persistent mood seems to have oppressed you so that you were sucked into it yourself and weren't able to objectively view the play from outside it. The brief description on the Gate website says that the couple's "ongoing battle threatens not only their future, but that of their friends and children as well." That suggests to me that these two plays deal with the effects of the couple's behaviour, both on themselves over time and on their closest acquaintances and dependants. I guess this was the purpose of writing a second play, because the first establishes the couple's behaviour and the second shows the longer-term effects of that behaviour in the context of friends and family.

#16 Epicoene

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 01:19 PM

View PostHonoured Guest, on 11 June 2013 - 02:55 PM, said:

My hunch is that people's appreciation of this production will be directly proportional to the intensity of their prior curiosity. So, I expect Epicoene to come away very content to have been acquainted with the second play
You are correct. The recent Trafalgar Studios production of the first play was superior but having the second play too made it interesting. Pennington very good. Didn't think much of Christopher Ravenscroft though - I've seen him a few times in recent years and he's one of those non-acting actors who are exactly the same every time.




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