"Faction fails to illuminate Strindberg"
by remotegoat reviewer for remotegoat on 10/02/11

This is one of those reviews I wish I did not have to write. I totally admired Faction Theatre Company's debut production of Schiller's 'The Robbers' at New Diorama in November 2010 and was pleased when New Diorama, whose central purpose is to welcome theatre ensembles, made Faction an associate company with regular slots in the programme.

Faction has bounced back three months later with this dense and unique play; Simon Reade has taken five one-act plays written by Strindberg near the end of his life - The Storm, After the Fire, The Ghost Sonata, The Pelican and The Black Glove - and has moulded them into a single full-length play, Stringberg's Apartment.

All the things I loved about Faction are still in evidence; an ensemble of 17 actors in a tiny space performing with energy and passion, the creative use of a "black box" theatre, a dedication to classic texts and an unusual slant on things.

Strindberg spent the years in which he wrote these plays living in an apartment block at Drottninggatan 85, Stockholm, and the company (no designer is credited) has turned the theatre into that apartment block renamed The Silent House and located in a neighbourhood called The Swamp. While Strindberg, played as Knight Mantell by Jacob Hummel, sits in his upstairs room surrounded by piles of A4 paper and comments from time to time on the behaviour of his fellow tenants, the other residents of The Silent House enact their stories, spliced together to make one textured narrative.

All very clever, but the stories are too dark, too dense and too similar to hold our interest and the play just goes on and on and on. Whereas The Robbers ran for three hours and I enjoyed every moment of it, Strindberg's Apartment (2 hours 45 minutes with an interval) tediously seemed to go on forever.

The acting is also very uneven as is the diction. Some of the stories came up loud and clear (difficult when the audience is positioned on all four sides) but others were muffled and indistinct and, in the end, although the programme assured me that everyone would be trying to solve the mystery of the sudden fire which swept through The Silent House and reduced it and most of its inmates to rubble, I just wanted to be on my way out of the theatre and into the night air.

I look forward to seeing more work from Faction, as they obviously have something very distinct to offer. But they need to step back from their passion and commitment to these dark texts and think about things like the length of the performance, acting skill and diction. By the second act the audience was laughing at things which weren't inherently funny and I am sure that, like me, they were devoutly waiting for the play to end. Never a good sign.

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