La Ronde

6 Jul

Written in the late nineteenth century, the question any current production of this play asks is its relevance.

This production contemporises costume and place names.  It’s happening now.

Foucault threw out an extraordinary challenge when he published The History of Sexuality.  Excluding the deep time of evolution, what history can sex possibly have? Isn’t sexuality just biological, not cultural? Isn’t it a timeless universal?

This production of Arthur Schnitzler’s play is fascinating because it makes an audience question whether a clear-eyed look at a supposed universal can, in fact, be historically specific. Forward looking in its time, is the play backward looking now? (It’s worth noting that the play is decidedly heterosexual. And, one would hope, the dynamic of class has changed.)

laronde-05

But the play is certainly about sex. Each of the scenes has a similar structure: pre-coital discussion, blackout for the act, then post-coital discussion. (The fact we don’t see the act itself is a powerful comment about its ineffable nature.)

The other aspect of the structure that’s intriguing is the suggestion of frequent infidelity. Perhaps not every one of the ten characters is actually being unfaithful, but each appears in two scenes, with a different lover. This highlights the strangeness of sexuality, so personal yet so ubiquitous.

The performances are good, both touching and funny (an achievement considering the tricky acoustics of the venue). Brendon Taylor as the Writer, Amanda Maple-Brown as the Actress and Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou as the Sweet Girl are particularly engaging.

Steven Hopley’s direction is simple and highly effective. He presents the play in the round and this evokes the dance of the title, and intensifies the oddity I referred to earlier: we watch beautiful young couples navigate the most private of moments and at the same time are aware of the social gaze of other audience members.

Is sex the place where the particular and the universal collide? (Or perhaps more accurately, rub up against each other?) And, if so, is this why sex is so crucial to both our sense of identity and our sense of connection?

Veronica Kaye

 

La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler

til July 12

Coronation Hall, 95 Lennox St Newtown

Performances – July 9, 11, 12 – 8pm

Book Now at www.stickytickets.com.au/enigma

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