The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings








Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London London Review
Scenes From a Marriage

"There's one couple on the face of the earth who happens to be happy — why shouldn't it be us?" — Johan
Scenes From a Marriage
Olivia Williams as Marianne

(Photo: Nobby Clark)
In 1973 the famous Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Berman created a series for television based on the marriage of a woman lawyer and her university lecturer husband. Liv Ullmann originally played Marianne who in this stage production, directed by Trevor Nunn, is played by the magnificent Olivia Williams.

The play, adapted for the stage by Joanna Murray-Smith traces the marriage of Marianne and Johan (Mark Bazeley) from their giggly and coy, early days when they are interviewed by a women's magazine, through infidelity, separation and re-connection. That is as far as the marital full circle gets.

In the opening scene, Marianne is 37 and Johan 40 and although they have two children and are approaching middle age, she is very smiley and in love with her husband. The contrast between them and others shows up when they invite a warring couple to dinner. Katrina (Aislinn Sands) and Peter (Shane Attwooll) whose marriage is on the rocks, verbally battle all night long. Later when Marianne says she is pregnant, Johan says he doesn't want to go through this again so it's tears for her and "Get rid of it" for him. We see her in hospital post abortion and suddenly we realise that Marianne isn't smiling anymore.

In between scenes there are video clips of birthdays and Christmases, them at play with their daughters. We sense the marriage is disintegrating as they argue more and Johan finds another younger woman and eventually leaves Marianne. However, a year after their split, they meet and when his "new" woman is away he visits Marianne. Now the original attraction resurfaces but there is an undercurrent of resentment and violence.

Olivia Williams gives a remarkable and intense performance, exposing vulnerability and Marianne's skills at recovery. Mark Bazeley too is excellent, although his character is a lot less sympathetic than that of his stage wife. As they both look back on their marriage and split, Johan says "We defined each other by acquisitions," his interpretation of what went wrong. This outstanding production will keep you thinking for many hours after seeing the show as we examine the unique connection of human relationships and their liability to dissolution and despair.

Robert Jones has designed a Scandinavian themed set that is added to and taken away from for each scene with partitions opening to reveal an office setting or the home or an consulting room

Ingmar Bergman when writing about his original piece, said "This couple allow themselves to be brave, cowardly, happy, sad, angry, loving, confused, uncertain, satisfied, cunning, unpleasant, childish, mean, unfathomable, magnificent, petty, physically affectionate, heartless, stupid, wretched, helpless . . . in a nutshell, typical human beings."

All is directed expertly from Trevor Nunn as we feel, he is reflecting on the ending of his own marriage. Nunn's recently announced foray into direction is a stage production of Fatal Attraction!

Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
Scenes From a Marriage
Written by Ingmar Bergman
Adapted for the stage by Joanne Murray-Smith
Directed by Trevor Nunn

Starring: Olivia Williams and Mark Bazeley
With: Shane Attwooll, Melanie Jessop, Aislinn Sands
Designed by Robert Jones
Music: Roger Eno
Lighting: Derek Anderson
Fight Director: Terry King
Running time: Two hours 25 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0844 264 2140
Booking to 9th November 2013
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 25th September 2013 performance at the St James' Theatre, Palace Street, London SW1E 5JA (Rail/Tube: Victoria)

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Scenes From a Marriage
  • I disagree with the review of Scenes From a Marriage
  • The review made me eager to see Scenes From a Marriage
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email . . . also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

London Theatre Walks

Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

©Copyright 2013, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from