IT STARTS in fine style, this new take on Arthur Schnitzler’s 1897 Viennese masterpiece La Ronde by Scotland’s Makar, Liz Lochhead; for in this version, the first pairing – in Schnitzler’s famous “daisy-chain” of licit and illicit sexual encounters – is between two Scottish actors rehearsing a two-handed version of Schintzler’s original play, under the direction of a truly annoying Russian woman director.
What Goes Around
Along with all the other characters in the play, the two are brilliantly played by Keith Fleming and Nicola Roy; and in no time, their initial thespian fling has spun off into a merry-go-round of clever social observation, from unfaithful husband to vengeful wife to kitchen-building carpenter to harassed single mum to prissy online dater Steven, and back again to the original actress.
The problem, though – in Tony Cownie’s otherwise sharp production – is that this circle takes just under an hour to complete; after which the play wanders off for another 25 minutes into a strangely static series of incidents surrounding the final rehearsal of the Schnitzler production, featuring a Michael Marra-like music man, the Russian lady director, and a now-possibly-pregnant young ingenue.
The show ends abruptly as she falls to the floor in a dead faint, and rehearsals are suspended for the day.
And if Lochhead’s point, in extending the play, is that even the neatest of sexual daisy-chains can have messy human consequences, it’s made in an oddly diffuse way, with far too many theatrical in-jokes; slightly reducing the impact of this otherwise clever and timely take on Schnitzler’s enduring classic.
• Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on Friday and Saturday and on tour around Scotland until 8 October