Review - Scenes From a Marriage: two riveting hours
Above: Ben Winspear (Johan) and Marta Dusseldorp (Marianne). Right: Christen O'Leary as Katerina. Below right: Hugh Parker as Peter. Photos by Rob Maccol.
Deanne Scott's after party shots follow the review.
Scenes From a Marriage
By Ingmar Bergman
Adapted for the stage by Joanna Murray-Smith
Directed by Paige Rattray
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: November 11-December 3. Duration: Two hours fifteen minutes including interval
Bookings www.qpac.com.au or 136 246.
Scenes From a Marriage was two riveting hours of power, glory, laughter and devastation - and some superfine acting from the entire cast.
But the undoubted star of the show was Marta Dusseldorp. She was simply magnificent as Marianne, the wife of the marriage concerned. I was just blown away by her performance. She had the audience in the palm of her hand throughout the entire play; her comedy timing was sublime, with voice and body, and her drama strong and convincing enough to tear at the heartstrings.
She was playful, tense, angry, sad, passionate, cold, and vengeful and each one of her emotions hit straight to the heart. It was rare and brilliant performance.
There was a cast of five in the play, but apart from a few short scenes it was a two-hander with Marta and her real-life husband Ben Winspear as her protagonist husband Johan. Christen O’Leary had two small roles as the very convincing sexpot Katerina, and later as a plain, unhappy woman seeking a divorce. It never fails to amaze me how she manages to create so many different characters so completely, this time in the same play! She is a chameleon of an actor.
Another favourite of mine is Hugh Parker, who can also create convincing characters with a vocal or physical accent, This time his two small roles were as Katerina’s bitter husband Peter and Arne, the all hail-fellow-well-met university colleague of Johan, who had a pretty good Scottish accent.
As the play opens Marianne and Johan, an affluent couple (she a divorce lawyer and he a university executive), are being interviewed by reporter Mrs Palm (Loani Arman, who also doubles as Eve, a university colleague of Johan’s) for a magazine series on love when they renew their marriage contract on their 10th anniversary. In the interview, they come across as an ideal couple.
Here Johan is jokingly smug and boastful, but Winspear makes him a charmer at the same time, until he turns into a man women love to hate, a heartless cheating bastard. His is another fine performance and a perfect foil for Dusseldorp. They are roles perfectly suited to a married couple, a pair who understand each other and can work as closely as this script needs them to.
Later in Act One they entertain Peter and Katarina, who have a miserable relationship and who, in Shakespearean fashion, become harbingers of doom.
Over the rest of the play Johan and Marianne separate, reunite, split, have random sex with each other, and eventually divorce and marry new partners, and yet all the time they have an emotional dependence on each other, which can only be satisfied by physical contact.
It is gripping stiff all the way through.
Joanna Murray-Smith, in my view one of Australia’s top playwrights, adapted Ingmar Bergman’s stark television series from the 1970s for the stage and did a fine job. Her dialogue is sharp and witty and incisive when necessary.
I did think though that the final, two scenes slowed the pace and led to an ending that was gently than the play deserved. But it is a production I recommend highly.
Loani Arman as Eve with Ben Winspear
Cast and crew with Artistic Director Sam Strong in (right).
Below: Ben Winspear and Eric Scott
Left: Sam Strong and above
Marta Dusseldorp and Ben Winspear