Scenes From a Marriage

Chichester programme

Production Information

Review / The Sunday Times / 16.9.90 (below)

Review / The Observer / 16.9.90

Review / Chichester Observer / 6.9.1990

Hoofing it through a nightmare
Born Again, Chichester Festival Theatre; and, Scenes from a Marriage, The Minerva Theatre.

...........................Across the road, in the small Minerva Theatre, Ingmar Bergman's Scenes From a Marriage is beyond questions and answers. It has the clinical remorselessness of the dissecting table. It relates to the probing openess of drama as an Ordnance Survey map to a painting by Cezanne or a psychoanalytic case history to a novel by Flaubert. The i's are mercilessly dotted. Marianne (Penny Downie) is a lawyer specialising in separations; Johan (Alan Howard) works in a fearsome-sounding place called the Psycho-Technical Institute. I note that his bedside reading is the Memoirs of Albert Speer.

discussion leading to...

The play should really be called Scenes From a Divorce: it is a tragedy of two essentially unloving people held in a helpless bondage of habit and organised domesticity, both public and private.

Bergman writes like a cartographer of hell. He clearly knows every move and countermove of marital reconnaissance and warfare: the assumed indifference; the need to patronise rather than protect; the helpless dependence which has less and less to do with the other person; the use of sex as a narcotic for the emotions.

Simon Higlett's set is a bright, antiseptic designer cage of functional simplicity, inside which Downie and Howard give devastating performances, bestowing the loving care and meticulous technique of great acting on every snarl, every plea, every challenge, every defeat. There are moments of pain and desolation in Downie's and moments of humiliation and anger in Howard's, which are etched on my memory in acid.

The play has the cold self-sufficiency of the master observer: psychological voyeurism on the brink of, but not quite reaching out to, art. I admire its mastery, but I would not want to see it again.

Marital discord

John Peter.

The Sunday Times, 16.9.90.

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