What: Creditors, a new play by Duncan Graham presented by the State Theatre Company
When: 20 Jul – 5 Aug 2018
Where: Space Theatre
It’s difficult to believe this play was originally written in 1888. Duncan Graham’s adaptation of August Strindberg’s Creditors is a tense tour de force that speaks to contemporary anxieties about passion, fidelity, and the traditional gender roles of marriage. This prescient tragicomedy will keep you on the edge of your seat as it batters you with a relentless storm of emotions right up until the explosive climax.
Creditors revolves around three characters caught in a sexual and emotional maelstrom: young neurotic artist Adolphe (Matt Crook), his vivacious and fiercely independent older wife Tekla (Caroline Craig), and his mysterious new friend Gustav (Peter Kowitz). While Tekla is away at a writers’ festival, Gustav begins to sow dissatisfaction in Adolphe’s marriage under the guise of counselling him. He plays on Adolphe’s insecurities about his masculinity and submission to his wife, as well as his fear of his wife’s flirtatious sexuality and independence. This sets into motion a volcanic eruption of passion and emotion that tears open the nature of marriage and gender relations in the modern age.
At times it’s absolutely hilarious to watch the sage-like Gustav pull apart the threads of Adolphe’s marriage and psyche. But a menacing undercurrent is always present: how does Gustav know so much about the intimate details of their relationship, and why is he stirring Adolphe into such a manic frenzy? Is he genuinely trying to help his friend, or is this all a manipulation of sinister proportions? Kowitz is masterful at creating a fascinating, enigmatic character that constantly keeps the audience guessing.
The destructive magnetism of ‘succubus’ Tekla is built up quite a lot by Gustav and Adolphe’s conversations. Thankfully, when she finally enters the stage, Craig’s stellar performance more than lives up to the hype. She is completely mesmerising in the role, bringing a wonderful complexity that makes her character human and sympathetic despite being terribly volatile and flawed. Craig shifts gears from seduction to rage to heartbreak with incredible ease. Crook’s performance as the spindly sculptor can feel stiff and overwrought in the beginning, but stick with it: he commits wholeheartedly to his frenzied performance and by the end of the play one can’t help but feel a deep sense of empathy for the naive and lovesick man.
The play’s structure keeps the tension high, as all three characters do not come face-to-face in the same room until the very climax. The audience is constantly anticipating the moment they all meet, and fascinated yet frightened of the destructive consequences that will inevitably follow.
Creditors was originally written in a time of profound social change and upheaval, and Duncan has expertly picked up on what makes its themes and anxieties relevant today. Equally funny, moving, and terrifying, Creditors is an explosive look at what happens when past debts finally catch up with you.
4 out of 5 stars