Strindberg’s blackly comic The Dance Of Death examines a toxic marriage in which Alice (played by Pamela Rabe) and Edgar (Colin Friels) spar with a ferocious intensity.
Add to the noxious duo Alice’s younger cousin Kurt (Toby Schmitz), who has a longstanding grudge against Edgar, and you have the ingredients for an emotional and psychological fight to the death.
Commenting on the Scandinavian playwrights, Rabe says, “Their gift for tragi-comedy is very strong in the Scandinavian writers. Maybe it’s those very dark long winter nights that have produced all these plays about people who don’t want to leave their houses”.
This is the first time Rabe has tackled The Dance Of Death and she says it is a really fine play.
“This play explores a metaphor of marriage as a living hell, and so they are quite dark, monstrous characters, but brutally funny”.
After her first Strindberg performance, Rabe vowed she would not perform in his plays again, but director Judy Davis tempted her back and showed her what could be “grotesquely funny about this world”.
This is the first time Rabe has been directed by Judy Davis.
“Being an actress herself with impeccable taste it is such a privilege to be guided through a piece by her,” she says. “The hardest thing is to resist saying ‘Judy, could you just get up and show me’.”
In summing up The Dance Of Death, Rabe comments, “It’s scary, it’s surreal, it’s an extraordinarily complex relationship between a man and a woman, and it’s a classic for good reason.”
Until Dec 23. Belvoir – Upstairs Theatre, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills. $37-$77+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.belvoir.com.au
By Irina Dunn