BY AUGUST STRINDBERG
Director: Nicolas Stemann
In 1887, Strindberg’s “The Father” premiered in Copenhagen. This play was not the first in which the Swedish playwright expressed his scepticism about an emerging feminist movement, which in his eyes was too far-reaching in its demands. He places a father at the centre of the action: first of all, as master of the house, who by law and tradition rules over the family finances, but also the education of his daughter. But towards the end, he loses out the most, worn down by women’s demands on him and those of a (patriarchal) society on his existence as a man. Finally, his wife’s (alleged) conspiracy drives him to madness. Today, despite all its mastery of inner drama, Strindberg’s play about the apparent dawning of the end of patriarchy, or rather a patriarch at the end, seems at first sight to be reactionary. Or it appears to be the delusion of a playwright who has fallen into a new role and is helplessly overburdened by the movements of the times. 2018 - “Angry white men” are everywhere. Broad swathes of society are challenging emancipatory movements that had appeared up until now to be irreversible. It has become socially acceptable to badmouth “obsession with gender,” or to denounce discriminated identities and forms of existence as “decadent establishment,” as well as inciting action to “take back control”. But the fact is that countless feature articles in serious newspapers explore the notion of men as the weak and disadvantaged sex, or even report on the vast majority of suicides, or conversely, assassinations and killing sprees committed by men. Against this contemporary backdrop, what — in terms of truthfulness — can Strindberg’s “The Father” offer? Can this play be approached without prejudice and put to the service of a common, open-minded— or even disturbing and unsettling meditation—about what it means to be a human being in these times?
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