Originally written by Arthur Schnitzler in the late-19th century, Reigen, or La Ronde as it was more popularly known by, showed pairs of characters before and after coitus. The reason for this type of exchange on stage? How egalitarian the sexual act was, breaking down the boundaries between the various strata (or at least with male ‘nobility’ and the ‘lower orders’). Max Gill’s latest production play uses a similar approach, but where as the original was a social commentary on fluidity of the social classes, Gill’s production focuses on the nature and appeasement of one’s sexual desires – some unacknowledged even to oneself – and the obstacles from without and within that impede this taking place.
Emphasisng the role of chance or Fate in sexual encounters, this production has a ‘wheel of fortune’ not unlike those seen on game shows. Depending on where the needle lands determines the character in the next scene. As ths is the 21st century, boundaries aren’t necessarily dictated by gender alone, so same sex liaisons also take place and in the case of, for instance ‘the bus driver’, the character starts off as female and finishes as male.
If this producion was purely about the novelty about gender swapping, the show would be tiresome very quickly. Instead, it is the importance of roleplay and power that comes to the fore, how each dictates the ‘satisfaction’ (or not) of both parties during each tryst. The ‘danger’ of usurping their respective roles, provides much of the frisson – being dominant, submissive or just crossing a line in a professional relationship.
However, whether the action takes place between ‘horny’ consenting adults or money has changed hands for ‘services’, there is something that unites them all – the absence of love. The fact this basic thing has been taken out of the equation is telling, the goal of wanting the sensuous high of such encounters, without the messy emotional aftermath. In that respect, no one ‘gets away with it’, as there is always someone at some point who feels an emotional connection or wants ‘more’ than what the other person has to offer.
© Michael Davis 2017
La Ronde runs at The Bunker (Theatre) until 11th March 2017.
Cast: Amanda Wilkin, Alex Vlahos, Lauren Samuels, Leemore Marret Jr