‘La Ronde’ read-through

Ian Gledhills’ resume and commentary

Arthur Schnitzler wrote La Ronde in 1897. However, the first performance of the play was not until 1920 in Berlin. While La Ronde still has something of a notorious reputation, the play no longer seems as risqué as it once did.

La Ronde consists of ten interlocking scenes, each involving two people. One character in each scene returns to partner a different character in the next scene, forming a so-called “circle of amorous encounters.”

The play seems ideally suited, therefore, to an online reading.

This version of La Ronde is both a translation and an adaptation. The play is originally set in 1890s Vienna but I have updated the play to the present day and set it in an unnamed city. Modernising the language results in a script that is hopefully more relevant to a contemporary audience. Updating the morals of the 1890s, however, while still trying to remain as true as possible to the original text, is more problematic.

It’s in this sense that this version becomes more adaptation than translation. For example, one of the characters is usually translated as “The Little Miss” or “The Sweet Young Thing.” This hardly seems appropriate nowadays, so I have simply called this character “The Young Woman.” In Schnitzler’s original she is frankly rather wet; by aiming to make her quite feisty, I’m hoping her scenes will resonate more with modern performers.

Sensing that the scope of Schnitzler’s play might have been somewhat broader if he’d been writing today, some liberties have been taken with gender in two of the scenes.

In all other respects I’ve tried to remain faithful to the original structure of the play. Famously, as each scene approaches its ‘climax’, Schnitzler inserts a line of asterisks in the text at the point where we are to assume the characters get intimate. On stage this is a bit of a green light for directors to get ‘creative’. This version retains the asterisks, but as this will be an online reading, you will have to use your imaginations.

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