In marriage, as in life, a little rain must fall. With Ingmar Bergman, it lashes down, storms thundering across the windswept landscape of our past, present and future. Adapted from a six-part TV series that began in 1973 – a barely fictionalised portrait of Bergman's marriage to the actress Liv Ullmann – Scenes from a Marriage is very much everything you might imagine from a Strindberg or an Ibsen: all dark, brooding intensity, relationships teetering on the edge and pulling back.
More than 30 years later, the director Trevor Nunn has brought this two-and-a-half-hour production, based on a* English version by Joanna Murray-Smith, to Coventry's Belgrade Theatre, where Nunn started his career 45 years ago. Robert Jones's clinical, pale-vanilla set, beautifully lit by Paul Pyant, captures magnificently the anodyne married life of the smug middle-class couple, Johan (Iain Glen) and Marianne (Imogen Stubbs, Nunn's real-life wife), whose relationship is a sterile confection of lifeless lovelessness, where jagged edges lurk below the surface.
Johan – an arrogant, overbearing tosspot one minute, a fetal boy lost the next – announces that there's someone else and the love he once displayed was not love at all ("I still love you, but I'm sick to death of you"). In fact, since they wed he has had nothing but contempt for the woman who bore his two daughters. Staggered (more out of the prospect of her own impending loneliness and the implosion of her domestic idyll than out of any sense of betrayal), Marianne pleads and grovels, only to see her husband depart for a new life.
Later, they meet, brawl, sign divorce papers, marry new partners and embark upon an affair, their sexual desires reignited by deceit, familiarity and the distance of the past. Both characters, excellently portrayed by Glen and Stubbs, are a sorry pair, to be neither mocked nor pitied. And this is the problem. Although it's directed with a light touch, one feels indifferent towards them, their inner lives having insufficient depth.
Ultimately, is it better to conceal and stifle your emotions and live a life of numbing mediocrity – one with no grenades or booms – or ought we to lash out and squirm to lend life the crash of drum rolls rather than the tooting of a last post? Bergman married five times; maybe he was still trying to find out when he died. To 2 Feb (024-7655 3055)
Pete Goodland, student, Sheffield
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