‘Can one say the same thing twice?’ we are asked, twice, as the lights come up on the single figure on the stage of St John’s Auditorium. Through our ever-present narrator Constantin Constantius (Andrew Thayer) we follow the story of Kierkegaard (David Egan) as he falls in love, becomes engaged and changes his mind at the last minute - based on true events. The first of three acts, set in 1843 Copenhagen, is made up of numerous short scenes in which Kierkegaard comes to Constantin for advice. In each Kierkegaard exclaims ‘I love her’ though it is clear that neither the expression nor meaning are repeated from one scene to the next. An elegant portrayal of a simple point: that repetition is impossible and that our memories are as rose tinted as the lighting used for his young love. A simple set, two chairs and hat stand, help to centre one’s attention on the dialogue and concepts, which is much needed.For the second act we travel to Berlin in an attempt to repeat a previous journey. As the stage and costuming become more cluttered with stick-on moustaches and dodgy German accents, so too does it feel that direction is being lost somewhere. True to its source material in its strange asides, I wonder whether these were necessary to the adaptation. Shakespeare and farce make appearances to help get across the play's point. Juliet asks us as ever ‘What's in a name? that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet…' Though we all know her words, have we ever heard them the same way twice?
Constantin returns to Copenhagen and to parting letters from Kierkegaard. ‘Oh dear, he’s turning to religion!’ exclaims Thayer (a vicar in real life) whose strong performance steers us through the evening with real engagement, which is, unlike Kierkegaard’s, fulfilling. Egan too as his bouncy, pitiful, self-indulgent friend played the transition from lovestruck goon to alienated shell with skill and pathos. The cast roundly did a great job, with a special mention for Marc Pacitti, whose chameleonic performances as Franz Moor, Johannes Faust and the cheeky chappy in the Berlin farce brought some much needed light heartedness, having a knowing joke at the expense of corrupt bankers and morally bankrupt members of the clergy.Adaptor/director George Pattison has done an excellent job with difficult subject matter. I left in no doubt that those with no prior knowledge of Kierkegaard or even philosophy would be entertained and intellectually enriched alike. I still think that the first act would make an incredible one act; while perhaps lacking the full philosophical story, it would intrigue and inspire as a piece of art ought.
Of course Repetition can’t be repeated, but the same players will say mostly the same words tonight (26th Apr) at St John’s College Auditorium.