Thursday, July 14, 2011

Theatre Review : Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler - Gate Theatre (Adapted and Directed by Anna Ledwich 20/6/11)

Combine oneirology with Vienna, and you have a powerful Freudian combination. Add a strong cast, Anna Ledwich’s excellent direction and the claustrophobia of the tiny Gate Theatre, and the resulting cocktail is very heady indeed.
Dream Story is based on the novella of the same name by Arthur Schnitzler, on which Stanley Kubrick also based his final film, Eyes Wide Shut. Fridolin (Luke Neal) and his wife Albertina (Leah Miller) relate to each other experiences they had during their recent holiday in Denmark. This destabilises the buttoned-up Fridolin, and he sets out into the evening to make some calls but also to seek some adventure. In three scenarios, with a vulnerable young patient, with a sexually active young woman and a prostitute (Rebecca Scroggs) his sexual nature is challenged. He meets his former colleague Nachtigall (Jon Foster), is humiliated by his greater confidence and demands access to a secret party that Nachtigall has told him about.
But then we revisit the scenarios, faces reoccur and the boundaries between dreams and reality become more and more blurred. This is handled very skilfully by Anna Ledwich – these boundaries are never clear right from outset, as you could interpret the entire story as a dream, or just facets of a decline into mental instability. The doubling of the cast in various roles adds to this hallucinatory effect.
All the cast of four are equally strong – Luke Neal and Leah Miller as the couple disintegrating both individually and as a couple are excellent, as are Jon Foster, who exudes alternately bonhomie and menace in his multiple roles, and Rebecca Scroggs as patient, prostitute and nymphette. The imaginative set changes from bedroom to bordello keep the pace going and as a result the play – which sometimes slips towards the Freudian-didactic in places – never loses its speed or interest.

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