The Blue Room is a 1998 play by David Hare, adapted from Der Reigen written by Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931), and more usually known as La Ronde.
Having completed the play in 1900 Schnitzler did not intend it to be performed, even calling the series of scenes 'unprintable', he intended them to be read by friends. The play was too sexually explicit to be performed at the time. Subsequently it was read and then performed in private. Its first public performance in 1921, under the now accepted title Reigen, was closed down by the Vienna police—Schnitzler was prosecuted for obscenity.
Reigen was meant as a dramatic expose of the decadence of the Austrian society. Schnitzler, being a doctor approached the decadence of society from a medical point of view, studying the journey of Syphilis through all classes of society. The title Reigen would be best translated as 'round-dance' or 'roundelay'. This refers to the daisy chain of sexual encounters, which also determines the format of the play. It is divided into ten scenes and each scene holds two characters (always male and female) and their sexual encounter. The following scene contains one character of the previous scene and a new one. A has sex with B, B has sex with C and so on; until in the tenth scene the circle closes with J having sex with A.
Hare's adaptation transfers the action from Vienna to 'one of the great cities of the world, in the present day'. The characters change accordingly, the soldier becomes a cab driver, the parlour maid becomes an au pair, etc...
Hare's major difference from the original piece is the idea of performing it as a two-hander, having just two actors perform all the parts and thus the whole piece. Hare states himself that he was not the first person to do so. In 1981 when the theatrical rights fell temporarily out of copyright several stage versions were crafted and performed. Otherwise Hare's adaptation is not far from the original.
Syphilis or any other sexually transmitted disease is never explicitly mentioned in either Schnitzler's original or Hare's adaptation. Scene VI contains the only reference to this when the politician is concerned about 'hygiene' having just slept with the model.
The Blue Room was first performed at the Donmar Warehouse, London on 10 September 1998 with Nicole Kidman and Iain Glen as actors. It was directed by Mendes, designed by Mark Thompson, lit by Hugh Vanstone with music by Paddy Cunneen. The production was a commercial success and later moved to the Cort Theatre in New York (with the same cast), but received mixed reviews.
London critic Charles Spencer's review for the Daily Telegraph concluded with the now iconic phrase, "It's pure theatrical Viagra."1
The brief nudity of Kidman, the short flash of her bottom on a semi dark stage caused an overrated hypecitation needed (Iain Glen's full frontal nudity combined with the action of a cartwheel was hardly worth mentioning). One newspaper even published a plan of the theatre showing the best seats to have to see Kidman during the nude scene.citation needed This meant tickets were sold at many times their original value.citation needed
The 1950 movie La Ronde by Max Ophüls was based on Reigen and has influenced many stage adaptations, including The Blue Room.