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?
STRINDBERG: Oh she is pretty!
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: 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.
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.
STRINDBERG: So what was the indication here?
BERGMAN: There wasn’t one.
STRINDBERG: I see. Lucky I had you here to explain it then.
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.
Ouch. He shouldn’t have said that. About the mother. That’s a mood killer.
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: 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: 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”.
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!
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.
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.
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.
(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?
STRINDBERG: Did you… want to do a fifth?
(Bergman stares at Strindberg for a little while)
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.