Playwright Bryony Lavery forensically dissects an intense relationship in Red Stitch’s new production, Stockholm.

The drama is so named because it draws parallels between romantic love and Stockholm syndrome, the psychological phenomenon where hostages come to identify with their hostage-takers.

Would it be fair to say Stockholm presents a somewhat dark take on modern love?

“Yes, but there are plenty of people who are in relationships like this, where you’re caught in a cycle and it’s very difficult to break free,” director Tanya Gerstle told the Star Observer.

“It’s an existential dilemma we all live with, about fear of isolation and fear of loss. The grabbing on tight and not letting go, even when things are perhaps not healthy or not working — why do people stay?”

Red Stitch company member Brett Cousins and guest actor Luisa Hastings Edge play Todd and Kali, an overachieving 30-something couple whose life together reads like a manual for success: perfect house, regular holidays and fantastic sex.

Trouble is, the intensity of their relationship means erotic highs are followed by crashing, macabre lows.

“The relationship is cyclical in its desire and punishment, like any relationship. We’ve sucked into one hour what may happen over 10 years,” Gerstle said.

There’s beauty amidst the destruction, though. Gerstle spoke of using the stage like a painting, moving her two actors around the space as if manoeuvring a brush around a giant canvas.

“I think there is hope — everybody who views something like this looks at it from the perspective of their own life. You think, ‘What would I do in that situation?’

“It’s a salutary tale — there are lots of exit points for these people, but they don’t take them.”

With that in mind, Gerstle admitted Stockholm could have some couples squirming in their seats.

“Maybe that’s the challenge — come along with your partner and see how you go,” she chuckled. “Either you’ll look at it and go, ‘Wow, we’re not as bad as that,’ or you’ll go ‘Oh, that reminds us of a few things’.”

INFO: Stockholm, April 25 – May 26, Red Stitch Actors Theatre, St Kilda, Victoria. www.redstitch.net

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