Review: Dances of Death, Gate Theatre

Michael Pennington is undoubtedly one of our greatest actors – to see him such an amazing performance in such a small theatre is an astonishing experience. Linda Marlowe, who was exceptional when I saw her in Mother Adam, plays a similar part as his wife. Christopher Ravenscroft, who was superbly nasty in The Stepmother earlier this year, is the benign cousin who witnesses their love-hate marriage. Inevitably, he becomes drawn in their poisonous relationship. Usually known as just Dance of Death, this version by Howard Brenton also includes Strindberg’s less performed second act. After the brilliant development of the characters in the first part, the plot then develops in the second part as a trio of decent young actors demonstrate the way in which the poison seeps into the second generation. I would guess the reason the second part gets left out is twofold: a doubling of both the cast and the length. Howard Brenton appears to have dealt with the latter by cutting many scenes down to just two lines and this works well, allowing the action to unfold at a cracking pace while leaving room for more extended passages to show further character development. I’d be surprised if I see anything this good in such a small theatre for a long time.

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