As John Milton said ‘The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell and Hell of Heaven’ and when that mind is being worked on by others the potential effects can be explosive. This then is the premise of Neil Smith’s “Creditors” at the Brockley Jack Theatre.
The action takes place in an unidentified town where there is a revolution taking place. It is the time of the banking crises and the disaffected populace are finally making the bankers pay for their actions. In a deserted hotel lobby we meet Adolph (Tice Oakfield) intensely working on a sculpture, which although not yet having a head, is obviously a woman.Behind him is Gustav (Paul Trussell), older and more laid back than Adolph, he appears to have recently made acquaintance with the young artist but is obviously someone that seems to have a lot of influence over Adolph. Gustav has already convinced him to change his discipline from paint to clay. The two men chat and drink brandy. Adolph is happy in every way. He finally feels his art is coming together and is really excited that he will soon be showing his work to his wife. Tekla (Rachel Heaton) is a successful author who has been away for a few days working without Adolph who misses his wife and worries about her absence – not out of a sense of concern for her well-being but more her fidelity. After all, Tekla was married to someone else when Adolph first met her and she very quickly dumped her husband to be with him so Adolph’s concerns may be well founded, particularly as they had had a big argument just before she went off three days ago. Gustav, discusses all this with Adolph in great detail and offers him advice on how to handle things when Tekla returns.
Based on the play of the same name by Swedish playwright August Strindberg, “Creditors” has been lovingly updated by Neil Smith who changes Gustav from the teacher of the original to being a financial advisor – with a very cynical attitude to life and the vicissitudes of the banking world – a device that works very well in this modern setting. Director Ross Drury uses the small stage well and moves his actors around with the deft touch of a chess grand-master. And what fantastic actors he has got to play with. Paul Trussell delivers a wonderful performance as Gustav. He is open and friendly with Adolph, supporting him with smiles and encouraging words to his face. But when Adolph’s back is turned, the mask slips and Paul’s facial expressions leave the audience in no doubt as to his feelings about his sparring partner. Adolph himself is a fascinating character. Young, naive and emotionally malleable Adolph is plagued by inner demons (epilepsy in the original play) and Tice Oakfield brings all of these facets of his character to life superbly, making me care about him and at times want to rush onto the stage and give him a big hug – something I thought I would never say about a character called Adolph. Finally, we have Tekla. A strong, liberated, highly successful woman for whom control appears to be the ultimate aphrodisiac, it would be easy to overplay Tekla. However, Rachel Heaton avoids this brilliantly. In fact, I have to say that Rachel was so believable I found myself instantly disliking Tekla from the moment she walked into the hotel carrying her designer shopping bags. However, that is not to say that Tekla had no redeeming characteristics and certainly by the end we saw a different side to the character that revealed more about the lady within.
All told then, this was a really good play. The story, I have to be honest, was not that complicated but was compelling to watch. The relationships between the three characters worked very well as the narrative unfolded using a good script with gentle humour initially to build the tension until the final, emotionally draining scene which made the very best of the superb skills of the three actors.
Review by Terry Eastham
Living Record presents Creditors by Neil Smith | After Strindberg
Tuesday 24 March to Saturday 11 April
My soul is leaving me…
A glass door revolves in the entrance to a deserted hotel lobby. Waiting for his wife to return, a young man bonds with another guest. But his new companion hides a dark agenda that threatens to expose all three to the true cost of giving your heart wholly to another. Strindberg described his play as ‘three people, one table, two chairs, and no Sunrise.’ For one of his characters credit has been extended to its ultimate end point. Neil Smith’s new version of Strindberg’s Creditors reveals how much of ourselves we owe to our past, how much of ourselves we are willing to lose, and how suddenly old debts can come back to haunt us. …Then I will give you mine to replace it.
The Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
Dates: Tuesday 24 March to Saturday 11 April 2015
Tickets: £14, £11 concessions (suitable for 16+)
Company website: www.livingrecord.co.uk
410 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2DH
or 0333 666 3366 (£1.50 fee for phone bookings only)
Performances at 7.45pm