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Top 10-plaats voor Scènes in The Guardian

home  >  nieuws  >  Top 10-plaats voor Scènes in The Guardian (02 jan 2014)

Scènes uit een huwelijk, dat in nov 2013 nog in het Londense Barbican Center te zien was, wordt door The Guardian als één van de tien beste voorstellingen van het afgelopen jaar uitgeroepen.  

'Maybe Tolstoy was right, and that all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way. But this was a show that made you wonder. Placing a single relationship under the microscope and investigating it from every available angle, director Ivo van Hove and a team of actors from his Toneelgroep Amsterdam, returning to London's Barbican after triumphant versions of Shakespeare and Antonioni, reminded us of a sharp and and needling truth – that our own tragedies, so all-occupying to us, so distinctive and profound, aren't even that original.

Bergman's version – made in 1973 for Swedish television – is a claustrophobic chamber piece, tracking the breakdown of a relationship between Johan, an academic, and Marianne, a lawyer, from the point where they're celebrating their 10th anniversary to the months after their divorce. The style is hyper-naturalistic, unflatteringly intimate: the actors, chattering bourgeois inanities over each other at dinner parties and in bed, are imprisoned in tight domestic spaces, the camera scrutinising them in closeup. Entire histories are conveyed in a hurried glance, or the way a cigarette is slipped from a packet. It's like watching a Vermeer come to life – except that everyone on this canvas is screwing everyone else, or about to have a breakdown.

Van Hove's insight was to retain the piece's intimacy while exploding its potential. Instead of one Johan and Marianne, we had three pairs, each playing out a different part of the story – the moment where Johan (played by Hugo Koolschijn as man in the throes of a belated midlife crisis) blithely admits he has a lover and announces his intention to leave; an agonised phonecall with Marianne's mother, where she fails yet again to escape the dreaded Sunday dinner (here offered as a playful, semi-serious game by the much younger Roeland Fernhout and Hadewych Minis). As an audience, we commuted between sections of a huge improvised structure, with the actors' communal dressing room at its centre, provocatively on display throughout. As each scene unspooled, each Johan and Marianne grappling with their own set of dissimilar yet identical problems, you could hear muffled squabbling from all the other couples at once. The effect was like eavesdropping on your neighbours. It was also, you began to realise, like eavesdropping on yourself.

In the second half, as the story neared its climax, the structure was cleared, and the final scenes played out under arc lights on the vast amphitheatre of the Barbican stage, with each Johan and Marianne shadowing each other – sometimes chanting the text in unison, sometimes splintering polyphonically into pairs or groups. Scores were settled and revenges issued; home truths dispensed, compromises reluctantly brokered. At times, as these couples dragged each other along the floor or burst through the watching audience, it looked like the opening stages of a riot. But when resolution was eventually reached – Johan and Marianne's realisation that they can't, in the end, live without each other – it had the feeling of absolution, something fragile plucked from the very brink.

Perhaps it sounds punishing – at four hours, it wasn't for the faint of heart – but what made Scenes brilliant theatre, I think, was its freedom. Van Hove and his ensemble must have choreographed every last moment, but it nonetheless felt like an extended improvisation, created with the barest of theatrical means (a table, some chairs, a bed) and finished with dextrous lightness of touch. Tension built and dissolved, the pace beat faster then slowed. Always we were reminded that this was fiction; yet the performances were so meticulously observed that life itself seemed to be happening in front of us, just a few feet away.

Continental European theatre is sometimes accused of being auteur-ish, clever-clever, dismissive of its audience. Toneelgroep's Scenes stood as a rebuke to that: a reminder of how intimacy can be crafted within the epic, and how a bold directorial vision can liberate rather than dominate a piece. It made much British drama, wedded to a certain kind of realism, look Pooterish and provincial. It also reminded us of something only falteringly realised by Bergman's long-suffering couple: how exhilarating it is to break free.' - Andrew Dickson, The Guardian, 24 dec 2013

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