Reviews Performance Published 3 December 2013

Scenes from a Marriage

Barbican Theatre ⋄ 14th - 17th November 2013

Ten brief positions.

Diana Damian Martin

1. This is not really a review. It has elements of re-viewing, displaced by the presence of an original image, a redacted memory. I am thinking here through and with the aid of translation; past the problems of mediation(s) that the production proposes (language; form; source; site).

2. I am watching a still from Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage. “We weren’t in love at all, but we were both downhearted.” A green velvet sofa, well behaved shoulders, hands tucked in lap; being in someone’s living room. The wall patterns seem familiar; the cleanliness of it all. There is a sparse exchange of words, a loaded cinematic gaze. It’s thick with atmosphere, the beige-ness of spaces in between. I am not sure what I am looking at. I wonder if it’s history, or a history of some kind. It feels a lot more like a portrait with shifting subjects. Because who thinks about love these days; at least, who thinks about love, these days, like this.

3. I am sat on the Barbican’s main stage and the show has just started. There is no velvet sofa, but the soft texture of the walls, the sound that spills from the scene happening adjacent to me, they all shape a sense of poetic intimacy. I wonder, am I watching a portrait? This feels historical. This feels historical. Three scenes for which we move; then a spectacle of speculative philosophy.

4. These different variations, these cycles that I am confronted with in van Hove’s vision, they are unabashedly personal; they contemplate through their own form. There’s an oddly fractured respect for the shifting perspective in Bergman’s cinema, for a process of appropriation of that aesthetic intimacy that is distinctly not embodied, but playful. What is the body on this stage, when these people are not the characters? When their bodies become sites of thinking, age is fluid, persona emerges as a kind of theatrical proposition. Signs are getting so perceptively muddled up. Narrative is strongly enacted, embodied then discarded. It’s the repetition of this tension that emerges through the moments in –between; this juxtaposition of selves, that speaks more fervently than the domesticity of this character language.

5. Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage began life as a short six-episode series which went on to become a full length feature. There is a strong sense of literary authorship to its depiction of the relationship between intimacy and destruction, and the shape-shifting politics of emotional discourse. The cinematic here is a site of speculation rather than any direct representation; its language nevertheless engages with a distinct interest in what we might consider (now, with hindsight) to be a sense of the real. It is fractured yet has a particular narrative linearity surprised by self-awareness.

6. Toneelgroep’s Scenes from a Marriage moves this speculation to a different mode of thinking-through; the stage is both actual and speculative. I move through, and think relationally. My perspective is not drenched with the language of separation, or any poesis of relationships. It is enacted through people. I feel the temperature of this evolving timeline; engage in repetitive processes of emotional high-rises. Speak in-between moments of tension. Consider justification in the different expositions which Tongeelgroep present.

7. I am trying to follow the gaze of young Marianne in this spectacle of cross-characterisation; bright eyed, jumping in between with no sense of timed choreography. I can make out a portrait that keeps refusing to stand still. I can make out an exchange that morphs. This is not history, I think to myself. It’s too softly-focused, too aware.

8. I’m on a film set, bathed in harsh light and following this cycle with a sense of extreme satisfaction; it’s a humorous, densely poetic and fiercely melancholic struggle that I’m part of, and the emotional traces of any past intimacy have been wiped away. There is authorial self-awareness. Split-seconds of concrete ideas materialise. There is an overwhelming sense of intention in this unfolding social politic, be it removed from its referent, incubated on stage.

9. I am considering the position of history in this portrait which refuses to emerge; I am struck by the co-existence of a strong sense of conclusiveness, but I am also confronting a particular set of questions. The form of the piece plays with the implications of presenting this dynamic (marriage?) with a clear sense of commitment to genre-play and a particular awareness of the construction of selfhood onstage. The intimacy is a device that enables a lot of dynamic engagement. There are perceptible knots, strong releases, moments of impossible communication.

10. “What kind of world does one see when one experiences it from the point of view of two and not one? What is the world like when it is experiences, developed and lived from the point of view of difference and not identity?” Alain Badiou

Diana Damian Martin

Diana Damian Martin is a London-based performance critic, curator and theorist. She writes about theatre and performance for a range of publications including Divadlo CZ, Scenes and Teatro e Critica. She was Managing Editor of Royal Holloway's first practice based research publication and Guest Editor for postgraduate journal Platform between 2012-2015. She is co-founder of Writingshop, a long term collaborative project with three European critics examining the processes and politics of contemporary critical practice, and a member of practice-based research collective Generative Constraints. She is completing her doctoral study 'Criticism as a Political Event: theorising a practice of contemporary performance criticism' at Royal Holloway, University of London and is a Lecturer in Performance Arts at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Scenes from a Marriage Show Info

Produced by Toneelgroep Amsterdam

Directed by Ivo van Hove

Show Details & Tickets


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