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?


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.


(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.


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.


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.


(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: 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.


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…


BERGMAN: Calm down. This is supposed to happen.


(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.


(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?


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.


William Drew

William Drew is a writer, narrative designer and dramaturg based in Brighton. He makes work at the intersection between live performance and gaming as Venice as a Dolphin and a Coney Associate. He is Associate Dramaturg of New Perspectives in Nottingham. He spent several years working in the Royal Court Theatre’s International and Literary Departments and has been a script reader for the National Theatre, Hampstead and Traverse Theatres. You can find out more about his work here:

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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