Love blooms. Love fades. It happens to everyone. It could be happening next door. And in any marriage torn asunder, sifting through the wreckage is going to get messy.
Even a seemingly perfect marriage has cracks in its facade: cracks that if untended, can become gaping rifts. Johan and Marianne are the ideal couple: two daughters, glittering careers, a lovely home.
But when Johan admits to sleeping with another woman, he detonates the first bomb in what will become a ferocious and savagely comic battle.
Joanna Murray-Smith’s fiery adaptation of the Ingmar Bergman classic reunites her with Queensland Theatre’s new Associate Artistic Director Paige Rattray (Switzerland). Real-life power couple Marta Dusseldorp and Ben Winspear play the warring spouses.
It’s a series of tiny glass slides, microscopic samples from two concentrated lives. It’s a subset of moments caught by a strobe; the crests and troughs of gargantuan waves that hint at the more everyday ups and downs.
Perhaps it’s us. Perhaps it’s not us. Perhaps it’s people we know or people we might like to be. Perhaps it’s no one we’ve ever known. Or no one real at all.
It’s a fantasy; a mirror; a biography.
The lights come up. The stage has been built out towards the audience, drawing us closer, further in.
At some point, Marianne says: “Being known is a kind of love.”
And Johan, later: “Let’s not talk about it anymore or it might disappear.”
Here we are, then, like Schrödinger’s cats: the best and worst of things at once, with the outcome not determined until we look.
Scenes from a Marriage has undergone its own artistic transformations to arrive at the exquisite essence of this play. Now, here is another metamorphosis as its words are occupied – embodied – by these actors. Their ferocious animation of its characters explodes the cliché of a story brought to life.
The words create an intricate score: a particular melody calls across its surface but there are so many subtleties at work underneath. What we see will depend as much on who we are as what’s on stage. We might hear the unexpected harmonies or wince at crashes of discord. We might flinch as two desires just miss, and pass each other by. Maybe we’ll squirm with the discomfiture of witness – until an unexpected grace note chimes again.
There’s a magic in these close and careful stories. Sit with them, and they transform from something intimate, forensically internal, to brush against the universal. They’re macroscopic, after all.
See? This moment. And this moment. And the next one. We’ll see so many different patterns when we stack up all these slides.