Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Creditors at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Creditors at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Creditors at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
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30 Mar REVIEW: Creditors at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

As Adolph waits in an all but deserted hotel lobby for his glamorous wife – author of sexy vampire pop-fiction that’s devoid of artistic merit – he stands, and he sculpts. Outside, the city riots, sirens scream and people are dying as they rise up in defiance of “the system.” But in the safe embrace of this oasis of calm, there’s a little voice in Adolph’s ear – the voice of another guest – Gustav.

A modern retelling of Swedish playwright August Strindberg’s 1889 play, Creditors is a vivid and timely creation that puts uncomfortable themes centre stage, shining a rare spotlight on emotionally abusive relationships and what it means to live with psychosis, as well as featuring tried, tested and ever-relevant subjects like jealousy and fidelity.

Watching Creditors on the day that Germanwings co-pilot and suspected suicide-murderer Andreas Lubitz’s ex-girlfriend spoke about the challenges of living with and loving someone whose thoughts were irrational, and whose behaviour was often erratic, sometimes frightening, feels really rather timely. It goes without saying that the crash was a tragedy, and of course it would be inappropriate to draw comparisons, but it’s not often that something happens that forces us to consider what it feels like to be in a relationship with someone suffering from some kind of mental health problem. How should a partner respond? Is it right to hold firm in the relationship, and a risk of years of heartbreak? Or is it better to leave someone already vulnerable and suffering to endure that alone? Does either partner owe the other anything? Statistically speaking, it’s something that a significant proportion of people will have to think about at some point in their lives, and the answer is, and has to be, hugely personal. But with the taboos that exist around mental illness, this conversation never seems close to the top of the agenda, so it’s exciting to see a play that adds volume to the whisper of a dialogue that’s happening about it right now.

It’s also refreshing to see a play featuring a breadwinning, successful woman – strong and powerful without being emasculated, and flawed enough to be real. But the relationships endured by Tekla (Rachel Heaton) are far from conventional, characterised by wild depersonalisation and severe power imbalance. Take, for example, her bizarre and thoroughly jarring demands to be called “Pussy,” which cause an involuntary shudder every time, like catching a half-healed paper cut, or some animalistic roll-play reminiscent of the more career-limiting moments shared by Rula Lenska and George Galloway in the Celebrity Big Brother house.

But the question remains: if Adolph taught her everything she knows about writing, does she owe him anything in return? Could she – and would she ever want to – walk away from him? Opposite Heaton, Tice Oakfield gives an arresting performance as the tormented Adolph, strange and troubled with the ability to veer violently between being a sympathetic character and an aggressor, as he asks the question, “can I really be a tyrant?” without ever really wanting to know the answer.

An unnerving show with deeply sinister overtones, Neil Smith’s script is engaging and accessible, with just enough going on to keep your interest, but not so much that events begin to cloud the staging of thought processes. This precise simplicity is mirrored beautifully in Leah Sams’ set, compounded by the staging and direction from Ross Drury.

Set against a backdrop of civil unrest, as the economic crisis comes to a head, Creditors is like a comprehensive guide of “how not to do relationships.” Vivid and intriguing, it has the ability to provoke, to show the darkness alongside the light, and to be used as a springboard for serious discussions.

Venue: The Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
Dates: 24th March – 11th April 2015
For tickets and information:

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
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