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Reviews West End & Central Published 2 October 2017

Review: After the Rehearsal/ Persona at Barbican

27 - 30 September 2017

August Strindberg and Ingmar Bergman go to watch Ivo van Hove’s double bill at the Barbican.

William Drew
After the Rehearsal/Persona at the Barbican. Photo: Tristram Kenton.

After the Rehearsal/Persona at the Barbican. Photo: Tristram Kenton.

STRINDBERG: What’s that over there? Where’s the set? Will they bring it on later?

BERGMAN: That’s it. It is modern.

STRINDBERG: I am modern! I don’t know what this is supposed to be. Oh look, Ingmar, there’s a man on the sofa. Was he here when we arrived? He seems very casual.

BERGMAN: Yes, he must have been there the whole time.

STRINDBERG: Are you sure?

BERGMAN: No.

STRINDBERG: Oh she is pretty!

BERGMAN: Yes.

STRINDBERG: Beautiful. Let me get a closer look. Where are the opera glasses?

BERGMAN: They don’t have them in theatres now.

STRINDBERG: Well that’s a regression. How am I supposed to look at the beautiful actresses? We should change seats.

(Other audience members shush them)

(A silence while they take in what just happened)

STRINDBERG (with feeling): How dare they?

BERGMAN: It’s fine. Look they have enlarged her face.

STRINDBERG: Oh my God, what is that?

BERGMAN: It’s film. You would have loved it.

STRINDBERG: Oh yes, she really is quite something.

BERGMAN: I would have written films for her.

STRINDBERG: It’s my play she’s in.

BERGMAN: Well no it’s mine.

STRINDBERG: They just said she is playing Agnes in A Dream Play.

BERGMAN: A fictional production in a film written and directed by me.

STRINDBERG: So you directed this?

BERGMAN: No, Ivo did.

STRINDBERG: Oh the thin man in the foyer.

BERGMAN: Yes. He’s directed several stage productions of films of mine. He is a fan. A big fan.

STRINDBERG: I see. So that man on stage: he’s not the director? He’s an actor playing the director?

BERGMAN: Yes, he’s Gijs Scholten van Aschat. He’s playing Hendrick Vogler: a fictional director, who is directing his fifth production of A Dream Play.

STRINDBERG: Five productions! Ha! And that’s just one of my plays! He really must be a fan of mine. A huge fan.

BERGMAN: Well yes but he is…well…fictional, as I just said.

STRINDBERG: Great taste in women too. Oh who is this one? She’s just interrupted.

BERGMAN: This is Rachel. She’s an actress. She’s the mother of the other woman, Anna.

STRINDBERG: Oh.

(They watch)

STRINDBERG: Why is she ignoring her?

BERGMAN: They’re not in the same reality.

STRINDBERG: So it’s a dream?

BERGMAN: Yes. Well, probably. Or a memory.

(They watch)

STRINDBERG: It’s not very much like any of my dreams.

BERGMAN: More like a flashback.

STRINDBERG: What’s a flashback?

BERGMAN: It’s like a new scene where you go back in time to show something relevant from the past.

STRINDBERG: Jumping back and forth in time. I like it. Very modern, yes. So these flashbacks, how do you know they are happening?

BERGMAN: I used to have a little musical indication accompanied by a gradual fading of one scene into another.

STRINDBERG: That sounds great! But that didn’t happen here.

BERGMAN: No.

STRINDBERG: So what was the indication here?

BERGMAN: There wasn’t one.

STRINDBERG: I see. Lucky I had you here to explain it then.

(They watch)

STRINDBERG: They’re very good, aren’t they? So natural.

BERGMAN: Yes, it feels intimate.

STRINDBERG: I think I would enjoy this even if you hadn’t been here to explain what was happening.

(They watch)

Ouch. He shouldn’t have said that. About the mother. That’s a mood killer.

(Beat)

BERGMAN: I said that.

STRINDBERG: Not surprised. You can’t write stuff like that.

(They watch. After the Rehearsal ends. Strindberg gives it a standing ovation, jumps up and down, Bergman remains seated.)

STRINDBERG: Why aren’t you clapping?

BERGMAN: Seems uncouth to applaud oneself. Let’s get some wine.

(An interval. August and Ingmar drink wine, return to their seats)

STRINDBERG: That was the end then. This is a different play?

BERGMAN: Entirely different, yes. Almost twenty years between them. This is earlier.

STRINDBERG: Ah. Is she dead?

BERGMAN: No, she’s just lying on there naked.

STRINDBERG: Oh.

(They watch)

STRINDBERG: She’s in an asylum?

BERGMAN: Yes. Well. Hospital.

STRINDBERG: So she’s sick as well.

BERGMAN: No, they send people to hospital when they’re mad now.

STRINDBERG: One can often neglect oneself during periods of madness. I wrote A Dream Play while I was quite mad.

BERGMAN: I know.

STRINDBERG: So the actress in this one is called Vogler and the director in the first one is called Vogler. Are they married?

BERGMAN: No.

STRINDBERG: Related?

BERGMAN: Not by blood, no. I used the same names a lot. Not just in these films.

STRINDBERG: Creating names is so tedious. Just call her “Actress” and the other one “Nurse”.

(They watch)

STRINDBERG: Oh that was great. The water. The theatre’s been flooded. Is that safe?

BERGMAN: I’m sure it is. This production’s been running for years. They’ve taken it all over the world.

STRINDBERG: My God, that was exciting! If I were writing today, I would put that in every play. Water everywhere!

(They watch)

BERGMAN: Alma means soul, you see?

STRINDBERG: So the nurse is the other one’s soul or her conscience

BERGMAN: Nothing so metaphysical

STRINDBERG: Why did you say it then?

BERGMAN: I just thought you might find it interesting. She is a nurse, yes, but they start to become the same person.

STRINDBERG: The two of them?

BERGMAN: They looked more similar in the film.

STRINDBERG: She’s silent.

BERGMAN: Yes.

STRINDBERG: And the other one talks. Talking makes her weak, vulnerable.

BERGMAN: She starts to realise that.

STRINDBERG: Where did you get this idea?

BERGMAN: You know as well as I that influences come from all over. As we grow older we soak up so much and you can’t ever know where in the recesses of the mind we have…

STRINDBERG: Yes yes but it’s The Stronger, isn’t it?

BERGMAN: I wouldn’t say so. I can see why you might think that.

STRINDBERG: Two women, sexual tension, one speaks and leaves herself vulnerable, the other remains silent and gains strength. Credit where credit is due, Ingmar…

OH MY GOD. THERE’S A STORM IN THE THEATRE!!!!!!!!

BERGMAN: Calm down. This is supposed to happen.

STRINDBERG: Oh.

(They watch)

Oh it’s over now. They’re all wet. This is very erotic.

BERGMAN: At times, yes.

STRINDBERG: Wish I had opera glasses now. Hang on what was I saying before?

BERGMAN: I can’t remember.

STRINDBERG: Oh.

(They watch)

(it finishes. Strindberg instinctively jumps up and gives it a standing ovation)

BERGMAN: Can you try to be a bit less conspicuous? That moustache!

STRINDBERG: I was wandering the streets earlier today and saw several men with moustaches, I’ll have you know. Anyway, that was excellent. A real team effort: you, me and Ivo. Feels like a torch of truth and beauty being passed from one generation to the next and to the next.

BERGMAN: And the actresses.

STRINDBERG: Lovely actresses, yes. Truly inspiring.

BERGMAN: I loved them all, you know?

STRINDBERG: As did I, dear boy, as did I.

(They make their way out of the Barbican, crossing to Whitecross Street. The market street is quiet at this time)

STRINDBERG: How many productions of A Dream Play did you direct then?

BERGMAN: Four.

STRINDBERG: Did you… want to do a fifth?

(Bergman stares at Strindberg for a little while)

STRINDBERG: What?

BERGMAN: You’re unbearable.

(The two of them walk towards Old Street, disappearing in the distance, their bickering receding into the sounds of the city.)

After the Rehearsal/Persona was performed at the Barbican. Click here for more details.

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William Drew

William Drew is a writer and games designer based in London. He makes work at the intersection between live performance and gaming as Venice as a Dolphin and an associate of Coney. As well as Exeunt, he has written for Wired UK, Rock Paper Shotgun and Unwinnable. In the past, he worked at the Royal Court Theatre and the Young Vic and he's been a script reader for the National Theatre, Hampstead and Traverse Theatres. You can find out more about his work here: http://www.veniceasadolphin.com

Review: After the Rehearsal/ Persona at Barbican Show Info


Directed by Ivo van Hove

Written by Ingmar Bergman

Cast includes Gijs Scholten van Aschat, Marieke Heebink, Gaite Jansen, Lineke Rijxman

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