By James Carpenter
Actor in the Strindberg Cycle
When Rob first proposed this project to me a year or so ago I confess that I was hesitant–I’d done only one Strindberg (Badly, I might add) years ago and knew of these plays but was not familiar with them. On reading Paul Walsh’s fine translations, I became even more hesitant; this is tough material by any standard and requires a thorough understanding of Strindberg’s work, his era and the new emerging form of theater.
I knew of Cutting Ball’s fine reputation for producing cutting edge material but had not seen a production there until the recent Pelleas and Melisande which left me hugely impressed with the company. A luminous, beautifully spoken and dynamic piece of theater featuring a core company of actors with whom I was not familiar but who left me in awe of their talents.
The five Chamber Plays are a different breed entirely. Fascinating and elusive they require the actor to be incredibly specific and brook no generalization of intent or focus. All five pieces contain some beautiful, hypnotic language, all five have specific personalities, all five have an element of unreality or hyper reality, to a greater or lesser degree. Nothing seems surface–there is always something going on between the lines. They demand choices, they demand risk.
The rehearsals to date have been alternately fun, frustrating and mystifying–I find some of the five plays come quite easily and are a joy to play and some I chase with arms outstretched to catch and hold Strindberg’s message and intent; at times I think I’ve gotten it only to see it melt through my fingers and disappear.
The ensemble is a joy to work with–fine actors and human beings all, and we all continue to chip away, to go deeper and to add layer on layer.
And always continue to risk!