Review: Scenes From A Marriage

November 24, 2017

Image: Queensland Theatre

Marriage is the word on everyone’s lips at the moment. What is it that drives us to pair and share our lives together ? What happens as time passes, lives change and the happily ever after fairy tale sometimes crumbles? These issues and more are explored in the timely play – ‘Scenes From A Marriage’. Starring real life married couple Marta Düsseldorp and Benjamin Winspear this play has been one of Queensland Theatre’s most anticipated of the year. The opening night audience waited excitedly for the stars to appear on stage. This talented couple have previously worked together on well – loved drama ‘A Place to Call Home’, but this is their first time treading the boards together. She Brisbane were invited to opening night of this honest love story and were delighted to attend the opening night celebrations at Sky Bar.

The Sky Bar

The History

‘ Scenes From A Marriage’ is based on a television series created by Ingmar Bergman. It is said to have doubled Sweden’s divorce rates in the year of its release -1973. Bergman later condensed the series into a film which won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film . Australia’s own Joanna Murray- Smith’s adaptation for the stage first premiered in the UK in 2008. Murray -Smith has said, “ Like Bergman… I have long been fascinated by the nature of love and it’s inevitable corruption.” Paige Rattray- Director says everyone will view this play differently and have an entirely different experience to the person next to them. She sums it up best by saying , “ At the end of it all , the one thing I am most certain of is that once you love someone , you are inextricably linked for better or worse.”

The Play

The story begins almost as a fairy tale with the perfect couple- Johann and Marianne- being interviewed for a women’s magazine which writes a glowing article on the pair’s perfect life in their perfect home with their two perfect children. These high fliers seemingly have it all, along with high-powered careers. She is a lawyer. He is a university academic. They are shocked when their friend’s marriages start unravelling around them. The atmosphere is light, funny and easy for the audience to relate to…. at first. The first scenes are hilarious.

As cracks begin to appear, things start unravelling and Düsseldorp and Winspear get to work out their acting muscles both figuratively and later in the play literally. Little prickles of discomfort start to appear as you realise this marriage may not live up to the glossy brochure like existence being portrayed. At interval stunned patrons needed the break, so tense had been the emotions flowing on stage.

The stark white Scandinavian set is replaced by the darker moodiness of a Scandinavian style lodge in a heart wrenching scene where Johann tells Marianne he has been having an affair. Boundaries have been crossed, hearts have been broken and yet still these two tango to the dance of love- getting closer, pulling away, being drawn back and forth by a gossamer thread into each other’s lives. It will make you laugh, it will make you squirm, it will make you smile and gasp out loud with the savagery and it will stay with you long after the curtain has closed.

The Actors

If like me, you enjoy seeing the best in the business showing off their craft then you will be in for a treat watching Düsseldorp and Winspear in action. Their chemistry on stage is real and the gamut of emotions on display and sometimes the sheer physicality of their performances will astound. Relaxed doing the most mundane of tasks like getting dressed in the morning, making a sandwich or hosting a dinner party they still convey the simmering emotions found just below the surface. In some scenes you want to cry along with Düsseldorp and yet you still don’t completely dislike Winspear as you have witnessed the events leading up to the chaos and the barbs from both.

The leads are ably assisted by a great support cast comprising Queensland Theatre favourites- Hugh Parker (Peter/ Arnie )and Christen O’ Leary (Katerina/ Mrs Jacobi) plus the lovely Loani Arman who makes her Queensland Theatre debut in this play as Mrs Palm/ Eva.

 This play may make you uncomfortable at times but ultimately it leaves you understanding a little bit more about human behaviour. It also really makes you feel , as all good plays should. I’m happy to say that my husband and I walked out clasping hands feeling happy to have navigated our marriage for over thirty years and marvelling at the bravery of Dusseldorp and Winspear for tackling these difficult roles as a couple. ‘Scenes From A Marriage’ has proven to be a fitting end to a wonderful season for Queensland Theatre.

Michelle with Loani Arman who plays Mrs Palm/Eva

‘ Scenes From A Marriage’ plays at the Playhouse Theatre – QPAC until December 3.

Michelle Beesley

Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.


Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).