Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Dream Story, Gate Theatre

Review: Dream Story, Gate Theatre

An edited version of this review appeared in Time Out, 20.06.2011

Arthur Schnitzler’s 1926 novella spawned Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick’s last film, in which Tom Cruise spends a Manhattan night in erectile limbo. Returning it to turn of the century Vienna, Anna Ledwich’s clever but protracted adaptation restores its sense of seedy descent.

Rather than Kubrick’s overblown opulence and conspiracy, Ledwich lowers us into the city’s grubby underworld as Dr. Fridolin (Luke Neal) seeks to satisfy his throbbing id. Leaving his wife asleep, he spirals through the city, stumbling into a secret society for anonymous promiscuity. His subconscious drives him on, but spluttering conscience holds him back.

Like La Ronde, Schnitzler’s most famous play, Dream Story is mathematically structured: a tidy palindrome that peaks at the club and retraces its steps.

It’s best at its deepest and darkest, particularly when allowing us into Fridolin’s neurotic perspective. Scenes echo as dissociation sets in and, thanks to savvy doubling and Helen Goddard’s disorientating design, the city seems a projected fantasy. Luke Neal is both upright and uptight as the dirty doctor. His tall frame seems to stiffen with guilt.

However, more everyday sections are tentative and unfocused. Ledwich flags the shortcomings of language compared to feeling, but, in doing so, proves there’s nothing so dull as the recounted dreams of other people.

Photograph: Gate Theatre

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