Saw this this evening at the Oxford Playhouse. Well, largely because the charming young French actor and director who tutors me and Zoe in French (a whimsical endeavour at fluency on my part) was acting in it.
I love Ibsen, and have probably read all his plays one after another in my twenties. I adore Bergman’s movies too, and again have probably seen all of them. Seen some Strindberg. So I do do Scandinavian gloom!
But I detested The Dream Play. Not the acting or the production, which was ingenious, strange, beautiful, haunting, and well acted. Visually almost stunning as many recent productions I’ve seen at the Playhouse have been
I found the play itself depressing with an unnecessarily bleak view of the sadness and futility of all human endeavour.
The Dream Play, like Ibsen’s plays (The Doll-House in particular), had some early feminist ideas, with marriage and domesticity seen as a trap in which sprightly women wilt, but which they cannot leave for fear of losing their children.
There was an air of threat and menace. Its bleak phantasmagoric atmosphere was threatening, and I found myself longing to escape, to pray, to breathe in the reassurance of Christ, to remember the goodness of God and the joy of life, to once more soak in the stability and rootedness of faith.
The Oxford Playhouse has a mission of having at least a quarter of its productions experimental. These can be excellent–or dreadful.
We had season tickets in 2005 when the experimental plays were rather dreadful. I walked out of a ridiculous production of The Birds, dragging my family with me, asked to see the Manager and asked for a refund or exchange on our tickets–the production was that bad!! The somewhat bemused manager acquiesced!!
Nonetheless, I am very fond of the Oxford Playhouse which is layered with memories of fab plays I saw there for the first time as an undergraduate.
It was among the reasons I wanted to return to Oxford to live here permanently. Just imagine: A small town with world-class theatre, ballet, opera, museums, libraries…within a 15 minute drive from my house.
Oxford has been a blessing to us!