invited to Stockholm’s Dramaten Theatre to direct Strindberg‘s A Dream Play. which comes to Glasgow this month for its only British dates. By rights it’s a combination that should amount to some kind of heresy — Sweden’s national playwright being commandeered by a foreign upstart at the 200-year-old Royal National Theatre no less — but Lepagc found that unlike his experience of directing Shakespeare at London’s National Theatre. he was rarely made conscious of the weight of expectation being placed upon him. He even got used to drifting past Ingmar Bergman in the cafe.
‘Dramaten was an extremely humble environment.’ he says. ‘lt wasn‘t like working for a big company in (.iernrany. for example. That took a lot of the pressure off. It was actually the press who would remind me how important
‘Strindberg is such an extraordinary theatre writer. He was a visionary, he knew about new performing art forms
before they happened, he had things to
say about communism before it invaded
parts of Europe, about world wars before world wars, even Hiroshima.’
it is to do this play and how sacred Strindberg is. This is the sixth production of it at the Dramaten and they‘d say. ‘What did you think about when you asked the sixth Agnes to play the part‘." I‘d say. “Wait a rnimrtc are you actually counting. like we count kings?" ’
Strindberg's play. written in 1901 partly in rCSponse to his stop-start relationship with his third wife. l-larriet Bosse. is about the daughter of the god lndra who takes on human form only to find the misery of earthly experience too much to bear. With the unpredictable shape of a dream. it is rich in free association and incongruity. and has a named cast~list of4l plus assorted ‘dancers. singers. clerks. children. schoolboys. sailors. etcetera‘.
Etcetera‘.’ Yes it‘s that sort of a play. Btrt it‘s one that holds a compulsive fascination. Dramaten gets round to doing a new version every decade or so. Bergman himself has said he would never tire of redirecting it. Lepage agrees without hesitation.
‘lt’s one of those pieces. a bit like some Shakespeare plays. that you can‘t say this is my staging ofit.‘ he says. ‘lt‘s your first attempt at it and you do it and do it. Strindberg is such an
Dream play: rich in tree association and incongrulty
extraordinary theatre writer. He was a visionary. he knew about new performing art forms before they happened. he had things to say about corrrrntu'risrn before it invaded parts of liorope. about world wars before world wars. even Hiroshima. He believed in intuition. in secret connections between things. the weirdest theories and if yotr doth approach him in his
era/y way then you don‘t get a chance to understand him.. By all accounts. l.epage\ production is
something special. raved about even by those who have been involved in most of the key productions of the century. l’or his stage. he has devised a 20-foot open cube that spins on its axis so that the floor in one scene is the wall in the next and the eighteen actors never have a flat surface to walk on. 'l‘hrow in some Buddhist philosophy and a spot of typical-lepage end-of— century time-hopping and you have a show described by The Times as ‘rnesmer'ic and compassionate.
‘A lot of actors. particularly those from big dramatic institutions. tend to act from the neck up.’ he says. "That‘s the culture they‘ve been brought up in. They‘re very good from the neck up. but physically it often drags. I try to put
ROBERT LEPAGE FEATURE
The cast of A Dream Play, encouraged by lepage to be 100 per cent body-conscious in their acting
actors in conditions where they have to be 100 per cent body-conscious. In this case because there‘s no firm ground anywhere they have to compensate with their bodies. Even walking into a rooru becomes a feat.’
As /i Dream Play rounds off its run with Glasgow‘s exclusive dates and as Seven Streams continues its global trek. Lepage has started work on an ambitiotrs one-man show in which h‘ will star in Montreal in the autumn. First. though. he is returning to Cannes for the first time since starring in Jesus Q/‘il/lmztreal. where his debut movie ('on/‘(as'simzal has been selected to open the Directors" Fortnight. ‘I think it’s an interesting translation of the work I do in theatre.‘ he says. already toying with more film ideas but not forsaking his love of theatre. ‘I wander round in different categories. I’m doing a film one day. then the day after I’m doing a rock concert. then the day after I‘m doing a play and it's important that all these things inform each other. When I say inform. it’s not just giving information. it's seeing how we can borrow and how we can twist certain things and turn them on their tails.’ ._l A Dream Play, 7i‘amway, 25—Mon 2 9 May.
The List 19 May-l Jun 199513