Dance of Death (4 stars)

Dance of Death

credit: Drew Farrell

The Citz presents a bawdy reel on Strindberg's battle of the sexes

Subtle, quiet and civilised – none of this applies here. Nor should it. Writer Frances Poet and director Candice Edmunds' adaptation of Strindberg's Dance of Death is a swaggering, giddy sea shanty about two people, imperious, feline Alice (Lucianne McEvoy) and her feral Captain Edgar (Tam Dean Burn), anchored to each other in utter co-dependency. The Captain wants to dance with his wife; Alice just wants him to disappear permanently.

The resentment that comes from 25 years of knowing what the other will say next, and hating the sound of each other's breathing is hilariously, awfully portrayed by the duo. It's an extended brawl, more martial than marital. It could spill over into the sea, were the couple not interrupted by sober, now divorced old friend Kurt (Andy Clark), who watches their acrimonious choreography with an impassive eye until he too is dragged like a prop into the game-playing. The machismo between the Captain and his love rival is both pitiful and amusing.

There is gnawing sense of isolation and melancholy underneath, accompanied only by the sound of telegraphs tapping out messages and an ominous, gorgeous folk-inspired soundtrack by Mogwai's Luke Sutherland (alongside Audrey Bizouerne). Symbolism is rife: love is poison, and limpets cling to rocks out of sheer stubbornness. The dying Captain and his once-loving wife find sweet tinctures only in the misery of others.

This anarchic romp never once behaves, but has unexpected moments of pathos and tenderness when fists finally unclench. A fine and merry dance indeed, with an impeccable trio at the helm.

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 7 May.

Dance of Death

An unflinching exploration soaked in pitch-black humour of the bonds that bind and shape us. For better or for worse. Till death do us part.