“There’s no escaping Strindberg’s misogyny.” Using this as the opening sentence of the Director’s Statement on the programme makes it a self-sustaining claim. Misogyny is indeed part of the mind-set of at least one of the characters in Creditors, August Strindberg’s 1888 play, although one wonders whether such a singling out is productive for this particular play. Woman-hating could also be seen as one of the multiple flaws in the characters, alongside jealousy and vanity, the combination of which Strindberg has used to design three slightly over-the-top but intriguing people. Byzantium Productions’s staging of the play at the Burton Taylor Studio this week executes his complex characters excellently.
The director, Christopher White, also notes the similarities between Creditors and Shakespeare’s Othello, although in Strindberg’s play, nobody is truly innocent. Gustav (Tom Lambert), having just met Adolph (Jacob Boswall) at a seaside hotel, is set on ruining Adolph’s marriage to the capricious flirt Tekla (Isobel Jesper-Jones). Tekla, meanwhile, has gone to France for a meeting, and is open about her flirtations with younger men along the way. Gustav poisons Adolph’s mind with malevolent accusations against Tekla and womanhood as a whole, and Tekla gives Adolph just enough reasons to believe these accusations.
The play lasts for one and a half hours without an intermission and yet manages to captivate the audience’s attention throughout, with just three actors. Jacob Boswall absolutely shines in the role of Adolph with an entirely natural performance. Tom Lambert provides a stark contrast as Gustav, who manages to deliver his misogynist lines with enough verve and conviction that the audience does not laugh him off as a caricature of times past. Isobel Jesper-Jones manages to make the audience’s opinion about Tekla sway from loathing to admiration and back. The play is funny in a very contemporary manner, containing up-to-date references that still do not look out of place in the setting of the play, with the costumes and stage harking back to a century ago.
The Burton Taylor Studio turns out to be the perfect setting for this play. The audience sits on three sides of the stage, in just two rows, which unfortunately also means that sometimes one will be looking at an actor’s back during a monologue. However, the setting works most perfectly in the scenes between Adolph and Tekla. The chemistry between Boswall and Jesper-Jones is so well played that the intimate setting of the Burton Taylor makes the audience feel like intruders, like voyeurs, in a homely, private scene. Though the audience’s presence is never acknowledged, it is impossible to distance oneself from the intimacy of this drama. A large stage would have been inappropriate, but this play is deserving of a large audience.
Creditors is on at the Burton Taylor until Saturday 9th May, at 7.30pm.