“You’re drawing my secrets from me. You’re pulling out my guts and when you go you’ll leave nothing but an empty shell around you.”
The Genesis Future Directors Award aims to nurture promising talent by plugging them into the creative network of the Young Vic and using this opportunity, 2015 winner Rikki Henry has chosen to present David Greig’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Creditors in the Clare Theatre there. Truth be told I’m not the biggest fan of the Swede and so I’ve never actually seen this play before but I know enough to know that Henry has tinkered with it to gay it up just a little.
So Tekla becomes a man and the play becomes a study of the corrosive effects of love gone awry, the love that used to dare not speak its name that is, refracted through the prism of gay marriage. Creative souls Adolph and Tekla are seemingly loved up but their marriage comes under scrutiny when the enigmatic Gustav appears on the scene whilst Tesla is away to successfully plant seeds of doubt in Adolph’s mind and expose what it truly means to give yourself to someone.
Henry plays Creditors in modern dress (very upper middle class gays) but the updating isn’t overt – the contrivances of 19th century drama remain and in some ways play into the naïveté of Tom Rhys Harries’ Adolph, a flighty creature one can imagine having relied on his prettiness and now shocked that it doesn’t work as it did. His opening two-hander with Gyuri Sarossy’s Gustav is a masterclass in how easily self-delusion can be manipulated, underscored with hints of potent sexuality.
The arrival of Jolyon Coy’s Tekla makes this manifest, a sensuous and sexual man who revels in flirting with any hot guy he sees and in games he plays with his husband (he calls him ‘Little Brother’…). And as he wrestles with Adolph’s insecurities and then later with Gustav’s duplicity in the show’s third and final act, it’s remarkable how seductive the whole thing remains, animal desire remaining even as love corrupts and corrodes away to the bitter end.
Petra Hjortsberg’s Scandi-cool set surrounds the men, or maybe isolates them, with water and with David Holmes’ lighting and Max Perryment’s brooding sound design, creates an intriguing, almost timeless space in which the naturalistic action takes place. And the power plays that it depicts feel as apposite for now as then, for gays as straights and anyone else inbetween. An absorbing piece of work from a talent we’d do well to keep our eyes on.