The Barron Theatre, 24 February 2011
It’s not often an audience walks into a theatre and asks firstly where the chairs are, and second, where the set is. Yet this was the case for Christopher Weickenmeier and Jenny Jackson’s interpretation of August Strindberg’s play, The Ghost Sonata. Stepping over the stems of flowers to take a seat on the tiers of the Barron, the audience found themselves bathed in the bright house lights for most of the performance.
The objective of this staging seems to have been to make the audience feel as uncomfortable as possible. I don’t mean this in an ironic way. Interminably long silences were broken by monotone, nonsensical shouts. Cast members stared directly out at the audience as they spoke, rarely engaging with one another, and their concentration and determination cannot be faulted. The cast of four acted superbly under the unusual direction to credibly evoke a fragmented tale of ghosts and disillusionment. At times the presentation made the narrative difficult to follow; yet scenes such as that in which Clara Engelhardt’s character crawled over the others, playing with their limbs and features and lamenting the pointlessness of it all, seemed to ring with universal truth. Moments of clarity like this, however, were sparse.
The experimental direction was original and memorable, despite its frequent incomprehensibility. Imaginative use of a video camera and blank-canvas set served their purpose well, reinforcing the inescapable sense of absence and superficiality that pervaded the unforgettable performance.
Image from the Barron Theatre