At some distance removed from our normal idea of a Strindberg play, Easter is a domestic drama with a final message of redemption and forgiveness which puts it on to a different plane altogether.
Yet in Gregory Motton’s new translation there is no attempt to make it anything more than that. The ultimate scene is straightforward and moving, the distinctive point being that Edward Peel, as Lindkvist, the bearer of the redemptive message, is no apostle of a holy gospel but a straightforward if sardonic business man who tells the stricken Heyst family how lucky they are that the religious meaning of Easter has taken such a practical form.
The misery is laid on during the play’s first two acts, however, with Elis, head of the family during his father’s imprisonment for embezzlement, worrying himself into a near nervous breakdown, his mother torn between anger, love and duty, his fiancee Kristina beginning to feel doubts about their relationship, and daughter Eleonora, who has discharged herself from the mental asylum, showing signs both of coming to terms with the world and falling in love with Elis’ live-in student Benjamin.
Though there are sincere, thoughtful performances by Bo Poraj as Elis, Sally Edwards as Fru Heyst and Frances Thorburn and Nicholas Shaw as the younger characters, the most striking feature is the realistic setting by Michael Taylor, a handsome room overlooking a wooded garden that will soon burst into spring glory, though Dominic Dromgoole’s direction is assured and Mark Doubleday’s lighting also adds materially to the atmosphere.