WORTH A LOOK?: ****1/2
WHERE? Duke Of York’s RUNTIME: 2 hours and 30 minutes (with 20-minute interval)
WHEN? 29/4, opens 2/5 and runs until 20/7
It’s the night before the election and representatives of rival newspapers are visiting a grieving pastor whose story – and how it is told – they believe could influence the vote.
- Read on for reasons including how now the subject matter of this 130-year-old play feels
Rosmersholm is a play written in 1886 by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen and, although we’ve never seen it until tonight, it’s thought by many critics to be his masterwork.
The play opens a year after the death of Rosmer’s wife when her friend Rebecca, who has moved into the family home, decides that the living room where the late woman spent much of her life should be re-opened after a period of mourning.
The play’s title refers to Rosmer’s home, the house which symbolises the respect his family commanded over the Norwegian village in which it stands, as rival newspapermen Kroll (also a politician played by Hamilton‘s Giles Terera) and Mortensgaard visit its inhabitants.
Rebecca is played by Hayley Atwell (pictured left above, who we last saw in Measure For Measure at the Donmar) and the drama is at its most powerful when her political convictions and ambition for equality are challenged by those around her not least the dismissive Kroll.
Tom Burke is understated at first as Rosmer only later emerging, as if blinking into the daylight, as details of his wife death become clearer as Rebecca’s ambitions for him crystallise.
Ibsen’s imagery has arguably never been more vividly drawn as we learn about the mill run, water wheel that clogged, flooding Rosmersholm when blocked and white horses that witnesses claim to have seen in the house when there is a death.
The political subject matter: eve of election (press night is the evening before the 3/5 local elections), fake news, a corrupt media and the hunger for a return of nobility of character to a discredited political class could not be more 2019.
Atwell’s performance, including a dramatic breakdown, is the stand-out here and her character (a woman driving political change while being denied the right to vote) is one that has so rarely featured in literature.
We’ve been critical of director Ian Rickson’s work but his contribution here is exceptional and the beautiful lighting alone is worthy of the price of admission.
Ibsen is the most frequently performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare and we’ve seen recent productions of The Master Builder at the Old Vic and The Wild Duck at the Almeida and this production left us breathless and thinking we should seek out more of his work.