Creditors: superb performances and subtle direction
- Gareth K Vile
- 8 May 2018
A nasty piece of misogyny, exposed
Stinking of vicious misogyny, Strindberg's Creditors presents an abhorrent act of revenge on a woman, Tekla (Adura Onashile) by her ex-husband Gustav (Stuart McQuarrie). The first act features the ex-husband persuading her current husband Adolf (Edward Franklin) that Tekla is a dangerous, ignorant woman and his love for her is wretched weakness. Inevitably, Gustav turns his attention to Tekla and destroys her too.
Fortunately, Strindberg's brazen and leaden script, adapted by David Greig, finds a subtle director in Stuart Laing. Waiting until the final act to bring his distinctive use of film and video projection, he allows Strindberg to unfold his opinions in an uncomplicated first and second act. When he introduces projection, the attention to Tekla's reactions to Gustav exposes the nastiness embedded in Strindberg's ideas.
Onashile's superb performance makes Tekla the sympathetic victim, the innocent sacrificed for Gustav's masculine philosophy. Far from being a respectful production of a classic, Laing attacks the script and lays its message bare. Creditors is a handbook for the abusive husband that shares gender politics with many Men's Rights Activist YouTube videos.
In the finale, there is some commentary by Strindberg on the consequences of Gustav's behaviour, but Laing can only just contain the misogyny: awkward physical theatre interludes with four girl guides frame the scenes suggesting a rescue party is, at least, circling the battling trio, and the final image, of a flashlight disappearing into the darkness is a tableau of desperation, with Adolph apparently dead and Tekla distressed.
It's a bracing production that argues against the script's message (and its trite naturalism, lazy rhetoric and drab dialogues), with typically intelligent and bravura direction by Laing: Onashile's brilliance emphasises the raw viciousness of a philosophy that rejects compassion and imagines a humanity responsible only to its own will.
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh until 12 May.