This is an extraordinary production on so many levels. The Ustinov has commissioned this translation from political satirist Beaton as the opening play in their season of black comedies.
In the original Durrenmatt takes the characters and situations from Strinberg’s classic “Dance of Death” and creates a searing and spiteful comedy, commenting on the fiercely dysfunctional relationship between Alice, an Actress and Edgar, a Soldier. Their 25 year marriage is far from happy and the arrival of Kurt, Alice’s cousin brings the simmering emotions to boiling point.
This is a challenging play in many ways, its layers of deceit, lies and game playing becomes more complex and the truth is hard to know. The shining glory of the production is the magnificent cast.
Greg Hicks (Edgar) is a terrifying, controlling brutal husband whose wish to torment and cripple the dreams and happier memories of Alice (Sally Dexter) seem paramount. A bankrupt shell of his former dreams due to health issues, they are isolated in the tower and she is unable to leave.
Sally Dexter brings a fire and commanding passion, her trampled dreams and constant undermining fires a revenge and role reversal that brings a chilling resolution.
Richard Clothier (Kurt) visits after many years, the love for Alice remains yet his personal history seems to catch up with him eventually.
The many strands in this challenging play are reflected in the card playing, the carefully choreographed direction and the physical constraints of the tower and the isolation of the island on which they live. The design of Max Jones and Ruth Hall captures the symbolic nature of the writing and once again the Ustinov is transformed and boundaries are pushed a little further.
This is a master class in sheer acting skill, rarely are an ensemble so demanding and exhausting and inspiring; totally mesmerising certainly a production to remember.
**** (4 Stars)