Assembly Rooms – Drawing Room
The Stronger follows a conversation between two women, who were once close friends, but an affair with one of their husbands shattered it. Tamar Bziava and Irina Giunashvili take it in turns to play the same character, replaying the same scenes, once in English and then again in Georgian (with English surtitles projected on the back wall). The beginning of the play has a slow start where the audience are waiting for something to happen. Subsequently, the pace of what follows feels wrong.
The Assembly Rooms is a suitable venue for the The Stronger. On the stage, there is a good amount of space for the actors to wonder around the café set. There is a table to the right of the stage with chairs, where the two sit for most of the play. In the centre is a Christmas tree with fairy lights cleverly in sync with the stage lighting. On the left is a bar area, where the waiter (Tsotne Metonidze) is stationed throughout.
The woman’s costumes are fantastic, velvet overcoats, beautiful dresses and luxurious furs. Their outfits look very similar but in different colours, reflecting the play’s explored theme of women in society. Moreover, when adjusting their outfits, the two mirror each other. For instance, when they unbutton their coats and adjust their hair. The waiter wears a typical outfit, and his job role is immediately identifiable.
The music playing in the background speeds up as the scenes go on and gets more intense and fast-paced, helping to elevate the drama on stage. However, it isn’t as seamless as it could be. There are noticeable jumps in the music and moments where it suddenly stops, seemingly unplanned. The music playing during the final scene contains text chimes, and at first, I thought someone forgot to turn their phone on silent. There are also sounds of dogs barking and dial tones, which the actors dance along to: but I couldn’t quite grasp their purpose?
Bziava and Giunashvili performances are impressive. They play each of the characters with distinction and emotion. Metonidze’s waiter thought hardly says anything, just sat in the corner of the stage, occasionally bringing the women food and drinks. He has great facial expressions when required so it would have been nice to hear from him
During one scene repeat early on, there’s a highly innovative moment when the first woman goes to leave the room, but the scene suddenly flips to the second timeline and re-starts the previous scene. The woman by the door switches to the second character, which works brilliantly in allowing the narrative to flow.
Although I am unfamiliar with August Strindberg’s work, it doesn’t quite seem to make sense. The Tumanishvili Film Actors Theatre group made the creative decision to flip the scenes, but even though they repeat, at times it’s hard to know what’s going on. It is an interesting and unique idea, but it fails to hit the mark, and I left the show confused as what the message was. Maybe with a few narrative and staging tweaks, the show could reach its full potential.
Written by: August Strindberg
Directed by: Keti Dolidze
Music arranged by: Anna Murgulia
The Stronger plays at Assembly Rooms (Drawing Room) until the 27 August. Further information and bookings can be found here.