Pros: Full of tension and suspense, Creditors is an accessible and modern adaptation of a classical play. The story is a wonderfully complex revenge tale that is well performed.
Cons: At times the language felt dated and unnatural. A couple of the characters also appeared stereotypical, and could have done with a bit more depth.
Rioting and sirens are heard in the distance. Inside a generic hotel room Adolph (Tice Oakfield) frantically slashes at a lump of clay with a utility knife. Out of the clay emerges an unfinished figure of a woman, a depiction of his wife. Gustav (Paul Trussell) is a calmer presence in the room, encouraging Adolph to create. Though Gustav’s language is supportive and indulgent, there is an undercurrent of danger. We quickly see Adolph is mentally ill and vulnerable, perhaps manic-depressive, with a tendency to self-harm. It soon emerges that Gustav is the one in control of Adolph’s fate as they wait for Adolph’s wife to arrive back from a business outing.
This is a story of manipulation and revenge, with Gustav playing a jealous, Iago-like character. He preys on Adolph’s delicate artistic temperament and his devotion to his wife. Though she is a feature of much of their discussion, Tekla (Rachel Heaton) arrives about two thirds of the way through the play. None of these characters are functional human beings, nor particularly likeable. They are flawed, broken and self-absorbed. Reflected in the set, shards of broken mirror make up a lampshade and a flower vase. A room separator looks like the prison bars that trap the characters within themselves.
Adolph comes across as two-dimensional, either manically happy or depressingly low. Medication occasionally stabilises him to a middle ground, but never for long. Gustav is a great villain and even though we eventually discover the reason for his actions, the audience never sees any vulnerability. That’s all we can see in Adolph, so I would have liked to see more depth in the character development. Tekla is more well-rounded, and those scenes where she is present are much more dynamic. Her relationship with Adolph is fascinating, showing Heaton’s great range. Despite the desire for more detailed characters, all three performances were excellent and the characterisation issues lie in the writing.
This is a new script adapted by Neil Smith from Strindberg’s original. Being unfamiliar with the latter and having only ever heard of the play, I am unsure how much of the dialogue is new. Some of it definitely felt old fashioned but most worked in a contemporary time and place. My initial instinct is to say that the modern, anarchic setting works well but my opinion might differ if I knew Strindberg’s version. Damaged individuals trying to function normally in a non-functional, violent world is all too relevant to our society today, creating a powerful message. Direction by Ross Drury is outstanding, creating conflict and tension between the characters and using the thrust stage extremely effectively.
With a running time of about 90 minutes and no interval, there is a sense of inevitable tragedy for these three characters. The script does not disappoint in this area, ending with a shocking visual and aural display. True to the Jack Studio Theatre’s style, this is a new adaptation of a script with great potential for development and a larger production down the line.
Director: Ross Drury
Writer: by Neil Smith after August Strindberg
Producer: Living Record
Booking Until: 11 April 2014
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking Link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/brockleyjackstudio/events