A rollercoaster of sex, lies and revenge.
Creditors is the work of the Swedish playwright, essayist and novelist August Strindberg (1849 – 1912). It is a darkly comic tale of vengeance, jealousy and psychological warfare and is about a young husband who, while anxiously awaiting the return of his new wife, falls under the sway of a confidant. Scottish Playwright and director David Greig takes Strindberg’s play and creates a contemporary work. While Greig has translated other plays he is a playwright in his own right with his mostrecent plays including: The American Pilot, Pyrenees, San Diego, Gobbo, Herges Adventures of Tintin, Yellow Moon and Damascus. Graig was recently interviewed by musicOMH:
How did this adaptation of Creditors come about?
I was asked to look at the piece by Michael Grandage at the Donmar. I’ve done a number of pieces for them and so I suppose they thought I was right for this one. I thought the play was full of potential, and I love working at the Donmar – their standards are very high – so it was a project I was keen to be involved with.
Did you read other adaptations of the play before beginning work on your own? Did you work from a literal translation?
Yes, I read every available translation. I also read Strindberg biographies and other background material. However this work is based on a so-called ‘literal translation’ commissioned by the Donmar. I actually very much dislike the term ‘literal,’ as it diminishes the achievement of the translator. What the translator did, in this case, is translate the play and clearly annotate the ambiguities and possibilities in the text so that I was able to explore them in my version.
Is it as satisfying to adapt a play as it is to write one? More difficult?
It’s extremely satisfying but in a different way to writing an original play. An original play is a journey of emotional nakedness and exploration. It is a mighty wrestling match in the wilderness of one’s own dark spaces. An adaptation is altogether more cerebral. The pleasure of it is the pleasure of craft – of good making. Having said that, whenever I do an adaptation I find I have to somehow experience it as if I am writing it for the first time. I have to find the part of me that needs to write this particular play. It’s as if, by sitting in the position of the original author and typing out his words I begin to have a ghost experience of what it was like to be him. It’s technical work, fascinating work and not easy but it is much less emotionally draining than writing an original play.
Is Strindberg trickier than other authors to adapt? Does the psychology of his characters translate easily to modern audiences?
Strindberg is tricky, because his dialogue and sentences are fractured and odd. They’re full of non sequiturs and logical lacunae. To be true to him, one sometimes has to accept sentences which feel badly made. However on the level of psychology he is utterly true, utterly modern. He was a writer who had no fear of exposing the darknesses of his psyche and, as a result, he is every bit as exciting today as he was in his time.
Creditors can be seen at Red Stitch Actors Theatre mid November.