07 April 2020, The Tablet

Paschal pause


Paschal pause
 

Theatres traditionally closed at Easter, which explains the lack of seasonal plays – except one

With productions shut down, keen playgoers have been improvising equivalent entertainments. Whether through online recorded performances – increasing daily in response to the crisis – or bookshelves.

This week, appropriately, I’ve been reading Easter by August Strindberg (1849-1912), a very rare play by a major dramatist (most known for Miss Julie and The Father) set during this religious season. The drama was published in Stockholm in 1901 – it was common for Scandinavian plays to be released for reading before performance – under the Swedish title, Påsk, a word derived from the same Hebrew root that gives English “paschal”.

Its three acts take place on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Eve in the Heyst home. Absent from the festival are a patriarch imprisoned for a financial fraud at a school, and a daughter in an asylum.

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