on 11 October 2008
I am Swedish, and had the opportunity to see David Greig's adaptation of Strindberg's "Creditors" on stage at the Donmare Warehouse theatre in London. My first reaction after watching the production was "Where can I buy the text?"
"Creditors" is a play about emotional and intellectual debit and credit in human relationships. Why and how do we give and receive, why and how is re-payment due - or is it?
These questions should feel relevant to all of us; unfortunately, Strindberg's original play is not readily accessible to the modern reader/spectator. The full Swedish version of "Creditors" has its share of cobwebs and dust: expressions and allusions understandable only in its specific context of time, place and culture. Strindberg being the Swedish national champion of the aphorism, the pearls are there - but the oysters take a lot of hammering to crack.
Overall, David Greig's adaptation removes the debris admirably. He adheres closely to the original, but where the local convolutions would require repeated readings and access to period references, or where a verbatim translation would simply miss the point, he cuts straight to the gist and makes it perfectly clear to the first-time spectator.
I have a few minor quibbles with the translator's choices, where connotations and ambiguities might have been conserved for added dimensions. Still, even before producing the play in Swedish one ought to take a few hints from David Greig on how to create a playable and watchable adaptation of it.
"Creditors" show how age, gender, pre-conceived notions and problems of self-image all get in the way of genuine human interaction. Greig's adaptation allows people of 2008 to use Strindberg's mirror to examine their own lives. I definitely recommend it to international readers looking for a suitable first acquaintance with Strindberg's realistic plays, or with the author in general.