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Stones Theatre Company’s production of SAGA | Review

Stones Theatre Company's production of SAGA
Stones Theatre Company’s production of SAGA

Saga, based on August Strindberg’s A Dream Play (1901) is an engaging, entertaining and enterprising 60-minute piece. The quartet of Frida Storm, Julia Florimo, Olivia Skoog and Marie Rabe are fantastically talented. Michael Currell’s script is sharp and direct and Olivia Stone’s direction is fast-paced and economical. Daughter of the Gods, Saga (Frida Storm) falls down to earth to observe humanity and find love. For the next 60 minutes, we follow her as she journeys through a dystopian landscape. During the course of 60 enthralling minutes, we encounter Abba, Ikea, the footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the blue and yellow Swedish flag and of course Sweden’s greatest playwright August Strindberg (1849 – 1912). Creatively combining elements of social realism, black comedy, satire and surrealism this bi-lingual English and Swedish production is a gem.

Saga’s journey begins in a new residential tower. Here she encounters young single professionals who spend most of their time online. As one of them says, “I have a job, debt and stunning views from the 18th floor“. It’s the juxtaposition of bleak social realism and unexpected comedy that gives Saga its refreshingly engaging quality. In the hands of a less nuanced writer this could so easily remain at the level of cliché and the ‘bleeding obvious’ but here we get that wonderful satiric twist which gives every scene of Saga a uniquely engaging edge.

The use of props is highly original. An upside-down cardboard box placed on the head stands in for a CCTV camera. A wooden frame with lights around the perimeter becomes an iPad in Marie Rabe’s brilliant portrayal of the narcissistic young selfie obsessed woman who spends her day eating “offensively expensive porridge”, avoiding poor people, meditating and searching for more ‘Likes’. Marie captures the mannerisms and vocabulary with uncanny accuracy. Olivia Skoog is terrific as the road sweeper, with Comic Relief red nose and orange hi-vis jacket, singing with a lisp that gives a comic ambiguity to her words. Don’t be put off by the bi-lingual aspects of Saga. When the characters speak in Swedish its fascinating. Even though I couldn’t understand the words I got a good enough idea from the context. Moreover, the guttural sounds of Swedish are utterly beguiling. I wanted more. Take, for example, the family scene in which Marie plays the father and Julia the mother. Marie’s Swedish and her male mannerisms as the father goes to urinate or opens a can of beer are side-splittingly funny. The winning combination of dystopian social realism and black comedy make Saga a fascinating and very watchable take on our contemporary world. Catch it in London at the Etcetera Theatre above The Oxford Arms pub in Camden Town.

4 stars

Review by John O’Brien

Saga is the daughter of the Gods; ethereal, beautiful, pure and honest. One day she asks her Father why humanity is so discontent? God despairs for he gave mankind everything beautiful and all he hears are cries of sorrow and anguish. Saga decides to see for herself. As she falls down from Heaven, she gets caught in a dream-scape, where time and place do not exist, where anything is possible and probable and Saga comes to face to face with the plight of humanity.

SAGA is an original adaptation of August Strindberg’s surrealist, expressionist piece of theatre, ’A Dream Play’, which was written in 1901. SAGA is a 60 minute, bi-lingual (English and Swedish) revival of this classic play at a time when Brexit draws near (or does it), the property ladder is near impossible to climb, vloggers are worshiped and millennials are buckling under debt racked up from years of education.

12 March 2019 – 16 March 2019
http://www.etceteratheatre.com

Author

  • John OBrien

    JOHN O’BRIEN born in London in 1960 is a born and bred Londoner. His mother was an illiterate Irish traveller. His early years were spent in Ladbroke Grove. He was born at number 40 Lancaster Road. In 1967 the family was rehoused in Hackney. He attended Brooke House School for Boys in Clapton, - as did Lord Sugar. He became head boy and was the first person in his family to make it to university, gaining a place at Goldsmiths College in 1978. He took a degree in Sociology and a PGCE . From 1982 until 1993 he taught at schools in Hackney and Richmond. In 1984-85 he attended Bristol University where he gained a Diploma in Social Administration. From 1985 until 1989 he studied part-time in the evenings for a degree in English Literature at Birkbeck College. He stayed on at Birkbeck from 1990-1992 to study for an MA in Modern English Literature. He left teaching in 1993 and has worked as a tutor, researcher, writer and tour guide. He leads bespoke guided tours on London’s history, art , architecture and culture. He has attended numerous courses at Oxford University - Exeter College, Rewley House & Kellogg College. In London, he attends courses at Gresham College, The National Gallery, The British Museum, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, The British Academy and The Royal Society. Read the latest London theatre reviews by all reviewers.

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