The Flemish collective tg STAN is back at Théâtre de la Bastille in Paris to present Scènes de la vie conjugale, after the Swedish filmmaker’s script. A subtle and delicate game.
Frank Vercruyssen is one of the pillars and founders of the Flemish collective tg STAN. He has created a triptych of plays on the complexity of love relationships. After Arthur Schnitzler's Mademoiselle Else and Paul Eluard's Nusch, here's Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage, broadcast as a six-episode TV series in 1973 and reworked into a feature film the following year.
The six chapters keep to the original narrative structure: the spectator, a watcher hidden in the dark, follows the story of a couple that seems to embody perfect happiness. But a few grains of sand make the machine grind to a halt. Several signs of falsehood slowly tear apart the smooth, almost tedious idea of perfection that also extended to the sexual relationship.
This love story, faltering ever more as the masks come off, is as old as time itself. While adapting it for the stage Frank Vercruyssen has considerably condensed it, albeit without doing any damage: the essence of the drama unfolding on stage has been kept intact. At his side Ruth Vega Fernandez asserts herself with her subtle and delicate acting, alongside her partner whose innate ease and personal way of inhabiting space make him an impressive actor. She maps out the course of her existence from compliance to emancipation, even if in the end it crosses once again her ex-husband's path. Is this play out-dated then? Yes and no. The furniture, the actor's costumes – they're all near to timeless.
A note-worthy element is tg STAN's trademark, a highly idiosyncratic acting style producing a perfectly controlled detachment. We're touched, but at the same time we feel as if this story is no longer our concern. The modernity of Bergman's scope, his observant eye on human relationships which he managed to grasp so thoroughly in a changing world – perhaps that's what's missing in this adaptation, although there's absolutely nothing wrong with it.
l'Humanité, 17 February 2014