David Hare's modern makeover in 1998, called the Blue Room, caused a stir because - Shock! Horror! - the audience caught a glimpse of Nicole Kidman's bare arse. The difference between Blue Room and La Ronde being that with the former, no one batted an eyelid about the male full frontal nudity, which is ironic on several levels, while in the early 1900s sex as a subject matter caused violent outrage.
But I get ahead of myself. La Ronde is a series of short scenes each revolving around a sexual encounter. The scenes are linked as one character from each moves onto the next so that the soldier who sleeps with the prostitute goes on to seduce the maid and so on through the classes finishing with a Count sleeping with the prostitute.
Schnitzler wanted to examine morals and sexuality. I imagine at the time it was written it was shocking for not only blatantly discussing that people had sex but also that everyone was at it.
Today neither of these things raise so much as an eyebrow. The play being pre-sexual revolution has the men dominating while the women lie back and think of Austria. There are a few exceptions though.
You could argue that in a modern context it is interesting to debate just how far or otherwise the sexual revolution has got women but this play is more about the morality of it all rather than women. The Harbinger Theatre Production Company has updated the setting to the 1950s but I'm not sure what that actually adds.
Otherwise it is reasonably well done. The actors do a good job in the intimate setting of the White Bear. If Nicole Kidman ever felt intimidated by the closeness of Donmar audience then this cast are due recognition for stripping to their smalls with the paying public just feet away.
But ultimately La Ronde left me feeling: "And?". There is a part of me that questions why choose this play if you aren't going to do a bolder modernisation or interpretation? Was the decision based on the premise that sex sells?
I'm going to give it three stars.