Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: CREDITORS at Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre

BWW Review: CREDITORS at Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Tuesday 24th July 2018.

The State Theatre Company of South Australia is currently presenting Duncan Graham's updated version of Swedish playwright August Strindberg's 1888 tragicomedy, Creditors, directed by David Mealor. The updating, as we find so often, is largely seen in the insertion of four-letter words and the use of, or mention of, modern technology. By and large, it quite closely follows earlier translations of the text, although the location is now Australia.

Adolph is a young artist, on a retreat with his partner, Tekla, an older woman and successful novelist, who has been away for a week promoting her latest work and is due to return imminently. He has met an older man who engages him in mind games, seemingly acting as a benevolent mentor. Unbeknownst to Adolph, the man is Gustav, Tekla's older ex-husband who, years after she left him and married Adolph while Gustav was away on an extended trip, still wants his revenge. It is interesting that both marriages involved age differences.

Gustav has already convinced Adolph to give up painting in favour of sculpture and he now sows seeds of doubt over Tekla's fidelity and questions her professed love for Adolph. He also convinces Adolph that he is on the verge of epilepsy, and that total abstinence from sexual intercourse for a year is his only chance to recover his health and live a long life. With such a famous play, one that is 130 years old, by an equally famous novelist and playwright, none of the above could really be considered as 'spoilers'.

The one-act play is in three sections, each being a conversation between two of the three characters, firstly with Adolph and Gustav, then Adolph and Tekla and, finally, Tekla and Gustav. As each one segues into the next, they are not strictly three scenes.

With Strindberg, we are, or were, in the genre of naturalism, but I felt that Mealor's approach seemed to be trying a little too hard to engage the audience at times through continual movement and emphasising certain passages, presumably to ensure that we didn't miss a significant point.

That aside, Peter Kowitz, as Gustav, Matt Crook, as Adolph, and Caroline Craig, as Tekla, each creates a complex character and, together, build the tension within the performance to its sudden and powerful conclusion. Debts have been repaid, but new ones have replaced them.

Kowitz's Gustav encourages, cajoles, and browbeats Adolph into bending to his will, while Crook's Adolph is a weak young man, easily influenced by this Svengali. Craig's Tekla is an independent, self-assured woman, but she, too, is initially convinced by Gustav's wiles. All three characters are flawed. Each of the performers takes their character on a wide-ranging emotional rollercoaster, their impressive performances ensuring an intense production.

The whole thing takes place on Ailsa Paterson's stylish multilevel set, complete with an infinity pool, with Mark Pennington's lighting changing subtly to accent the varying moods, and Quentin Grant's sparse moments of music adding to the edgiest of interactions.

Strindberg's Creditors has not been performed in Adelaide before, as far as I can recall, so be sure to make the most of this opportunity to see this powerful and thought-provoking play while you have the chance.

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes, and More from Your Favorite Broadway Stars

Related Articles View More Australia - Adelaide Stories

From This Author Barry Lenny