the imagery of torture and despair, and as such will inevitably embody the concerns of world society after Hiroshima. But for all its explicit associatons with these terrors, Sankai Juku‘s path is a level one, and they bring peace, not a sword.
DRAMATEN A Doll’s House/Markisinnan de Sade Ingmar Bergman‘s achievement as a film-maker is almost unequalled, with masterpieces such as The Seventh Seal. Fanny and Alexander and Autumn Sonata to his credit. His work in the theatre, while demonstrating a similar mastery. has not received the world attention that is its due — that is, until his deeply controversial production of Hamlet in 1987 which caused furious outrage for its overt eroticism. Bergman is now past 70, but the stream of energy and creativity that has led him to work in theatre for over 50 years shows little sign ofdrying.
Ibsen‘s A Doll's House is one of the central texts of Scandinavian theatre: a play that shocked Europe when it was first produced in 1879, giving a voice to the long-suppressed activity of European feminism. Its impact was immediate and enormous - as an investigation ofgender oppression and an affirmation ofsocial justice — as well as helping to revolutionise performance in the service of Naturalism. Only fifteen years later Jarry‘s Ubu Roi (as seen by the Katona Jozsef Theatre from Hungary) was greeted with howls and riots, and went on to inﬂuence the reverse, surreal side of Western theatrical modernism. Unlike Jarry. interest in Ibsen’s symbolic realism did not. however, confine itselfto an intellectual elite. As the central figure of Nora leaves to begin a new life — ‘with the slamming of the door‘, a critic said, ‘the theatres of Europe woke up.’
Enclosed in the decadence of Mishima‘s Madame de Sade is a similar exploration of female sexuality. First performed in 1965 the play provides, as Mishima wrote, a solution to a riddle: ‘I was intrigued why Madame de Sade, after demonstrating such absolute fidelity to her husband during his years in prison. should have left him the moment he was free.‘The Madame is made the centre of the play’s action, though Mishima also described it as ‘the Marquis through women‘s eyes‘. Sade’s male presence is felt heavily in the play. by report and by anticipation; yet the ending comes as. deformed and broken. he is waiting offstage to meet his wife for the first time since his imprisonment.
Mishima’s work is as interesting for its political response formally as well as thematically to post-war Japan. His natural decadence was tempered with increasing formalism - to the extent that he considered ‘everything had to form a precise. mathematical system around Madame de Sade‘ — and Opposing the Western domination ofJapan with calls to tradition and militarism. The butoh theatre has proved more sophisticated in its more contemporary response: Mishima‘s career ended with a failed military uprising followed by ritual suicide in 1970.
With these tensions at stake, Dramaten’s performances are potentially the most provocative and thoughtful to be seen here, and
with a director of the calibre of Bergman, they remain unmissable.
MALY THEATRE 0F LENINGRAD Brothers And Sisters This, the centrepiece of the Theatre Royal’s season, is the most massive theatrical work seen in Britain since The Mahabharata and will, beyond doubt, outdo it. They were last seen in the UK at 1988 Mayfest with Alexander Galin’s hard-hitting Stars In the Morning Sky; then the
Maly (‘Small’) Theatre was showered with awards and praise. Their powerful play about prostitution and the desperate preoccupations of the Russian bureaucracy amid the 1980 Olympic Games was a genuine reinvigoration ofthe concerns of classical naturalism in its naked realism, its exploration of overwhelmingly sordid moralities; their tradition is unashamedly oneof radicalism.
Brothers And Sisters is conceived on an altogether more grandiose scale. Adapted from the tetralogy of novels by Fyodor Abramov (who may or may not have been a hit man for the KGB). the action takes place in a remote northern village as the Nazi armies are sweeping towards the Russian heartland.
The tone is set in an opening scene where Stalin's voice issues from a radio, exhorting all to sacrifice everything for the country. The realities of sacrifice are plain in the village — a village where the women and children have become the actors in their own lives. Abramov’s refusal to idealise, to soften conceptions of the misery of village life, is the controlling force in the structure ofthe play,
In the war the disappearance of men forced radical changes in Russian life, and this is the central theme of Brothers And Sisters. The 50-strong cast of actors and musicians, under the direction of Lev Dodin, spent considerable time living and working in villages similar to the New Life, and the subsequent production has been touring constantly for three years. The Maly will present its six-hour epic over two nights (with two whole-day performances). In the sheer broadness of the canvas, as well as the sensitivity ofthe
company itself, the production promises to be the most outstanding of the year.
Martinslnnan De Sade
Five Theatres of the World runs until 15 August at Theatre Royal, Glasgow. The Kantona Joseph Theatre performs until 14 July, Surakarta Company 17—21 July, Maly Drama Theatre 26—31 July, SankaiJuku 2—4 August and Dramaten 6—15 August.
The List l3—26July l9909