I went to see Soulpepper’s performance of La Ronde last night and I really didn’t know what to expect from their description:
First published privately at the turn of the last century, due to its frank sexual content, Schnitzler’s La Ronde was sensationally banned for obscenity, securing the play a place in dramatic immortality. Taking a circuitous route through ten interconnected sexual liaisons, La Rondequestions the nature of human contact, love, and fidelity. Contains explicit sexual content and nudity – recommended for audiences 18+
It doesn’t really say much. Basically the play is a series of ten scenes which are interconnected. We start off in a bedroom with a soldier Charlie (Stuart Hughes) and Sonja (Leah Doz), a sexworker. As each scene ends, the audience watches the cast changing the set in dim lighting, and each scene is linked by carrying over one or two characters from the previous scene. In the second scene Charlie is trying to win back Hannibelle (Miranda Edwards), a refugee he fell in love with in the Congo. Hannibelle is haunted by her violent past and it’s her story which propels the entire first half of the play. While she’s only in two of those five scenes, her life and her story are what propel all those characters.
But that’s where the play falls apart, while the first half of the play is five self-contained stories linked through the story of Hannibelle, the second half has no successful link through its five stories. I’m not sure, but I think it was attempted to link the stories though Zoe’s (Grace Lynn Kung) backstory and tragedy, but there was no real emotional weight. The scene failed to resonate as it was focusing too much on the comedy of Lucas (Brandon McGibbon) and Teddy (Mike Ross) competing for Zoe and less on Zoe herself. Zoe seems to be a prop in both her two scenes, in both she’s a comedic prop either being fought over by men or to illustrate a man’s incompetence at oral sex.
My other thought is that the attempted link in that half is Robert (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) who may be Zoe’s father’s business parter who is mentioned in Zoe’s scene with Teddy and Lucas. It could be, but there’s really nothing to lead one to believe that, other than a wild guess. It’s at this point that it seems cracks in the play open up, as if there’s no real story, and it’s just 10 scenes that stand on their own. If the cracks are opening up, so are the cracks in the set, as one wall suddenly shifts a metre away from others, than another wall, then the backdrop raises as the set stands askew and the audience sees the crew changing the set between scenes.
It’s an interesting play, but it’s not quite there.