BWW Review: CREDITORS, Jermyn Street Theatre
Adapted by Howard Brenton - a long-standing collaborator of the artistic director when it comes to the Norwegian playwright - the naturalistic piece sees Adolph (James Sheldon) grappling with his marriage to Tekla (Dorothea Myer-Bennett), whom he perceives as his intellectual superior.
He is utterly devoted to her and considers their differences and open-mindedness as a strength rather than a defect but a casual meeting with Gustav (David Sturzaker) at a seaside resort leads the young and impressionable artist to reconsider his feelings for his wife. Littler presents corrupted characters ruled by fancy and pleasure, offering the separate implosions of their lives in a controlled space.
He plays with stillness and intimacy, stirring them up and then placating them again like a tide playing with sand, delivering envy, passion, and hate in a flurry of only apparent placidness. The physical immobility that dominates the stage is translated into the opposite use of Strindberg-via-Brenton's language, which needs no frills to come alive and move the action under Littler's direction.
The play's natural humour is used to get the audience to side with contrasting individuals at different points while the narrative unfolds into an exhibition of questionable morals. He offers Adolph as an easily charmed weakling, subject to both Gustav and Tekla. Sheldon is assured in his character's insecurities: bumbling and nervous, he shares his doubts with Sturzaker's Gustav who, in turn, is charming and seemingly keen to help out his new friend hiding his endgame cleverly.
Myer-Bennett's Tekla stands between the dichotomy of these two characters, volatile and hard with her husband, she is yet another grey character in Strindberg's repertoire. The men's displays of misogyny in her regards gather together in the unequivocal perception of her a project. Littler does little to address it frontally, successfully withholding his active judgement in favour of the organic resurfacing of the issue.
Visually, the show owns a delicate hue thanks to designer Louie Whitemore's soft colour scheme which, aided by Johanna Town's lighting, becomes a neutral landscape that sharply highlights the character's interior turmoils when needed. As presented at Jermyn Street Theatre, Creditors holds its ground to draw attention to the shortcomings and inadequacies of human nature.