August Strindberg by Margery Morgan (auth.)

By Margery Morgan (auth.)

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Sample text

He was soon pouring scorn on the fuss he had made over conventionalised staging and a doctrinaire meticulousness in naturalistic method: 'If a woman is seduced in a hothouse, it isn't necessary to relate the seduction to all the potted plants you can find there and list them all by name' (an allusion to his listing of the multiple conditions which motivate Julie's tragedy with the complexity of motivation we recognise in actual life). His 1889 essay, 'On Modern Drama and Modern Theatre',4 keeps only to the philosophic core, where science and the traditional dynamics of drama meet: 'The great naturalism ...

It is he who has persuaded Adolf (a painter) to turn to sculpture, arguing the value of supplying 'the third dimension' to achieve truthfulness. The term has a particular application in the action Gustav is devising: three characters disposed in a chain of pairs, three duologues with no intervals between, but each commenting on the third, invisible character. This is a triangle drama in more than one sense. Setting out his plan to Adolf, in the first duologue, Gustav uses the theatrical metaphor to suggest another element, reinforcing the design: 'I shall take up my post over there in my room ...

The play is also an experiment in performance art: a two-hander in which one part is wholly silent, and yet both actresses are required to be on stage and fully engaged with each other throughout. It is believed that Strindberg wrote both roles for his wife Siri: the speaking part for productions in Swedish or Finnish, the silent role for productions in other languages which she could not speak well. The result forces both actresses to play a subtext, as for one of them there is nothing else to play.

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