Review: Scenes from a Marriage

Divorcees Beware! A Confronting and Powerful Study on the Tribulations of Marriage


Scenes from a Marriage is a true adaptation of the 1973 Ingmar Bergman six-part Swedish mini-series classic adapted by Joanna Murray-Smith. At the time, the series was considered to be controversial due to its append influence on the rise of European divorce rates. It is based partly on Bergmann’s own harrowing experiences with his wife Liv Ullmann, who played the leading female role and is cited as influencing filmmakers such as Richard Linklater and Woody Allen, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film

Queensland Theatre’s new Associate Artistic Director Paige Rattray has teamed up with Joanna Murray-Smith to produce a two-hour long study of the disintegration of a once happy marriage over a 10 period. The juxtaposed marriage is between Marianne (Marta Dusseldorp), who, ironically is a caring divorce lawyer, and Johan (Ben Winspear), a narcissistic academic. Supporting roles are played by: Loani Arman as Mrs Palm/Eva; Christen O’Leary as Katerina/Mrs Jacobi; and Hugh Parker as Peter/Arne.

The leading pair are actually a real couple which, due to their familiarity, enables them to recreate extremely disturbing, realistic scenes. The play is not one for the faint hearted, as for anyone who has experienced a divorce, some scenes can be emotionally heartrending, causing you to examine your own behaviour during the process.

The majority of the scenes are presented in a plain white set, highlighting the simplicity of Swedish living and accentuating the magnitude of the behaviour of the characters. Each scene was introduced with a simple projected title giving an inkling into how the play unfolds as the ten years progress.

This production has many adult themes with domestic violence and coarse language. As one who had not seen the original series, I was taken aback. Many of life’s most confronting traumas are exposed as Marianne negotiates life with her egotistical and cruel partner, Johan, who seems to delight in causing her both physical and emotional pain. Despite his callousness Marianne remains devoted and is unable to stop returning for more, further exacerbating their problems.

On several occasions there were gasps of horror and disbelief from the audience as the abusive Johan further pushed boundaries, directing vile language and violence at the seemingly gentle Marianne.

Scenes from a Marriage highlights how diametrically opposed extreme stereotypes of human nature respond to an affair, within the ideal of marriage as sacrosanct. It is a confronting and powerful study on the tribulations of marriage. All divorcees, you have been warned!

By Dr Gemma Regan


Scenes From a Marriage  

By Ingmar Bergman Adapted by Joanna Murray-Smith

Playhouse Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane

11th Nov.-3rd Dec. 2017