Reigen

Mon 13th – Wed 15th August 2018

reviews

Marie-Louise Wohrle

at 09:09 on 14th Aug 2018

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'Reigen' is an Austrian play written in 1903 by Arthur Schnitzler that explores human sexuality. It’s title is German for a dance in a circle, reflected in the play by a circle of sexual encounters. The Whore sleeps with the Solider, who sleeps with the Maid, who sleeps with the Gentleman, who sleeps with… and so on until the Count encounters the Whore again. The play itself is definitely interesting for those drama-lovers and fringe visitors looking for more serious theatre to immerse themselves in.

The cast of four - Alice Tyrrell, Oliver Jones, Georgina Taylor, and Ciaran Constable - all perform multiple roles (12 between them in total). They show a good variability between their characters, although could potentially do with more differentiation to give the characters some depth next to their sexual experiences. The classic physical theatre performances are bound well into the narrative and fluidly executed. I also appreciated the occasional gender-reversals being treated as normal rather than unusual.

While the physical theatre was done well, the show was let down by the staging. So much of the performance took place on the floor, seated or lying down, which meant that anyone sitting further back than the first row lost large parts of the performance. On a similar note, it felt like the staging was not adapted to the venue at all, as performers blocked each other’s and their own light and faces. The projector used to title each scene, too, was not ideal, as the screen obscured titles, and people sitting on either side of it were probably unable to read it.

The Austrian director of this particular version, Ada Günther, has translated the play herself; an impressive feat that she managed successfully. Overall, 'Reigen' has strengths, though it may show weaknesses at times. If this is a genre or concept that intrigues you I recommend it, but if you're looking for something a little lighter for your money, perhaps not.

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Andrew Jameson

at 09:48 on 14th Aug 2018

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This new translation of the 1903 Austrian play 'Reigen' follows a string of conversations between people before and after they have sex. This production experiments with gender roles and relationship dynamics as it passes between different lives and situations.

I have to admit that going in I was a little worried that this play might stray into the realm of pretentiousness but my fears were quickly brushed aside. The dialogue has been skilfully translated by Ada Günther, who is also the director. It is quick and powerful without feeling too flowery and manages to balance between the old and the modern. There are some humorous nods which lift the scenes, earning laughs from the audience. But those are also succinctly blended with quieter, more poignant moments.

The use of gender inversions is subtle but proves to be an effective means of introducing questions about the dynamics of some of the relationships. I enjoyed the contrast between the first scene involving a solider and a prostitute and a later one with a young woman and her husband. Both scenes use the same actors but playing different characters and genders, which adds a nice development and change through the play – without which the scenes may have become stagnant.

I also enjoyed seeing the transition that particular characters went through – such as the husband who moves from reassuring his wife in one scene to seducing a young woman in the next. While unpleasant, it is a clever transition that is fully realised on stage.

The play pieces together some beautiful fragments of conversations and lives as characters are drawn quickly and effectively. There are some moments when the play can feel repetitive, but these are quite rare so it rarely drags. And one scene told solely through dance-like movement makes a refreshing change to the established pattern. This is paired with lighting and music to make a beautiful spectacle within the play.

Roughly stitched together white sheets form an interesting backdrop for the piece and allow for some well designed projection to be layered on top. The way the set seems to close in towards the end is also a nice image. The soundscape, which has been specially composed by Joanna Ward, is interestingly abstract and complements the dialogue and action very well.

The ensemble cast is consistently strong. Each of the four actors manages to move seamlessly from one character, gender and relationship dynamic to another. The range required is significant but it is handled expertly, particularly by Alice Tyrrell and Oliver Jones.

'Reigen' is a thought-provoking piece of theatre which is delivered by a talented group of actors. The results are impressive and rewarding.

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