So. Bazzers, the time has come to write on our raison d’etre (check us out) - it’s Strindberg time! Yep we’re going to dive into the mind of the writer whose work we are adapting for our dreamplay - giving us the perfect excuse to get into the head of the guy who wrote this impossible, existentialist, surrealist theatre gauge that has endured for centuries. Basically, the topic and sub heading of the blog this week is: “who on earth could have possibly come up with this?”
Hoy. We’ll do our best!
Well! Someone, creative, damaged and a touch fragile, for one. A Dream Play follows beautiful, melancholy and naive daughter of the God Indra, known as Agnes. She comes down to observe us, UFO style, and our earth-y ways. She is left wanting. To sort of get back up there to the mansion in the clouds and away quick sharp. Quelle Surprise (we like quoting in French a lot lately, go with it) In essence, the human condition comes under the microscope and uncomfortable truths are borne out of the typical human experience: an marriage going sour, a dead end job, waiting in vain, forever trapped in a unrequited love. Not so subtle there, August bro. But still, the human condition (i.e in bad shape) has long inspired great thinkers and writers of the age, why should August be any different?
Why indeed? Well, it seems there was never any choice: he was destined to be an artist. After some research, it’s clear to see that August Strindberg reaches those lofty, dusty heights of the shelves labelled ‘Tortured Genius’ where his ideas are regularly dusted off and his words shaken from their pages into some melting pot or another (maybe we are spending too much time with this play…) His popularity was not as widespread as Ibsen or Chekov, fellow writers and his contemporaries, enjoying modest success at best. Still, they didn’t enjoy a period of posthumous popularity Strindberg did - with various Miss Julies popping up all over these isles in recent years. There’s not been that many A Dream Plays though - therefore, enter Baz. Pursued by a bear, fairy and the living daughter of a divine being. It’s just that sort of play, guys. So - we know how he could have written it, but why?
Having suffered a sickly early childhood as part of a global cholera outbreak, parts of it in lonely and enforced quarantine, the hospital and his quarantine bed are a motif he uses throughout his canon of work but particularly in A Dream Play as a means to portray unrest, torture or, in this particular play, a kind of hellish limbo. August, now a grown man riddled with unchecked maladies and disorders - how we would have had him have a chance holiday in Vienna and pop in to see the ‘local’ psychologist and meet Sigmund -he clearly had enough nous to realise the quarantine as a theatrical device. It didn’t stop him from attempting suicide more than once though sadly, the first when he was very young. He had an issue with drink and drug abuse and was prone to fits of whimsy, and fantasy.
Tortured genius? Tick.
Albeit one with an excellent work ethic. After abandoning his childhood hobby of tearing all the worldly goods his family owned in order to become an ‘inventor’ he discovered books, education, and later, art and women - and was all ‘Wheel what?’ and ‘electric generator who?’. He then fell in with a crowd of philosophers, writers, poets and atheists, and probably lounged around going ‘woe is me’ with a cup of coffee in one hand and a glass of wine and a cigarette in the other. After successfully wooing his first wife in love letters of several languages (show off) and comparing their love to Cleopatra and Marc Antony, he found the theatre. And the rest is theatre history. A Dream Play premiered in April 1907, with his then third wife, actress Harriet Bosse, who had also endured a long wooing campaign by Strindberg, as Agnes. In truth, we should be thankful for the campaign as in the process she became his sole inspiration for Agnes. In our eyes, she belongs wholeheartedly within the pantheon of famous turn of the century tragic heroines such as Hedda Gabler in Ibsen’s seminal play and of Masha in Chekov’s Three Sisters - bright, beautiful and innocent - cruelly lampooned by fate and a harsh society. Sounds familiar.
In the great scheme of things, it seems like A Dream Play was just another title and another opening night in Strindberg’s bibliography, overshadowed by it’s big sister, the loud and controversial Miss Julie, banned in England until 1939. He is also well known and respected for his artwork, novels and writings, with Agnes and Co somewhat relegated to only the most hardcore Strindberg elite. No elite present in his time though, as on his death in May 1912, having inspired parades and acclaim in his home country of Sweden for his achievements in his lifetime, ten thousand people followed his coffin. Incredible devotion for a writer and creative thinker, let alone advocate of experimental theatre.
Stories and entertainment for all, featuring a clear message, often quite left-wing leaning, strong women, forward thinking ideas and experimental flavours. Sounds familiar to us here at Baz - a match made in heaven, not Earth. And we can’t wait.
Dream Big and don’t do anything Strindberg wouldn’t do