Saga is Michael Currell’s adaptation of August Strindberg’s influential 1901 A Dream Play. Strindberg’s original, written in a psychotic episode, explores faith, sanity, marriage, and class struggle in an expressionistic dream-scape. This play is fizzing with ideas and inspired direction by Olivia Stone. It’s a satire on contemporary identity politics formed from a concatenation of violent events all drained of their emotional impact. A show of graceful, apathetic suicides.
A sinister Abba rendition establishes the provocative atmosphere of the play. God’s daughter Saga then descends from heaven to meet humanity. She begins a surreal odyssey to find love in this shiny happy dystopia of alienating technologies, overpriced new builds, and moral nihilism, meeting a series of narcissistic, empty, and manic depressive caricatures along the way.
Saga falls hopelessly in love with a self-pitying Young Professional. Human emotions confuse her at first but over the course of the play, she becomes addicted to them. Some attacks on too-easy targets – attention-hungry vloggers and virtue signalling students – risk being trite. This is avoided (mostly) through a good ear for how bureaucratic language can descend into an existential crisis. Actors Frida Storm, Julia Florimo, Olivia Skoog and Marie Rabe play contemptible characters with charm, tension, and bravery.
To contemporary audiences, Strindberg is a paradoxical figure. In Sweden he is a much loved ‘national playwright’, yet he wrote bigoted ramblings like “women, being small and foolish and therefore evil…should be suppressed, like barbarians and thieves.”
Why? Misogyny, yes, but one fuelled partly by madness, and partly by a passionate contempt for 19thcentury gender and class conventions. His work explores the emotional devastation hierarchies bring to human relationships. It’s underscored by a spirit of anarchic socialism. This adaption brings that spirit into the 21stcentury.