(Seen at the afternoon preview performance on 1st May 2019).
Duncan Macmillan's adaptation of a gender-empowerment political drama feels as
relevant today as when Ibsen wrote the original in 1886. The monkey proposes
that it is quite possible to see the play on multiple occasions and follow
mentally an entirely different strand of thought each time, thus seeing an
entirely different production depending on how one wishes to prioritise and
interpret the multiple layers of ideas presented.
If wishing to gulp them all, the clarity of Ian Rickson's direction will assist
the theatregoer willing to engage with the minute of life in Rosmersholm even as
information is delivered in vast quantity. With good fortune, an impressively
chosen cast is the greatest assistance.
As descendant John Rosmer, Tom Burke is an idealist in a position to lead - but
at the expense of his own position and conflicted over both power and love. His
diction is outstanding, but perhaps keeping his head still would allow the
audience to relax a little.
No issue for his forlorn love Rebecca (Hayley Atwell). Stillness and towering
stage presence, she blends her character's humble beginnings with later acquired
social graces to perfection, arguing the position of female emancipation and
suffrage with overwhelming commitment.
Guest Pastor Andreas Kroll (Giles Terera) is the immovable pillar of supposed
righteousness. He has authority, control and a fascinating ability to land
argument with deftness whether it be in accord with the mood of the scene or
against it - without for a moment stretching our credulity nor preventing us
weighting each idea against the previous one. In an actor with lesser timing's
hands, it could be confusing. Here, it both re-defines constantly his character
and delves further into the text to expose a concept.
Lovely characterisation from Peter Wright as Ulrik Brendel is also worthy of
note - his opening scene a light moment even as he alters the tone to take us
forward in the first act's definition. Later, Jake Fairbrother as Peter
Mortensgaard does similar work shifting politics and morality. No wonder head of
household staff Mrs Helseth (Lucy Briers) is a competent hand at keeping the
place and visitors it attracts in a balanced state even as ghosts gather. Her
staff have some nice moments too - Gavin Antony, Ebony Buckle, Piers Hampton,
Maureen Hibbert, Robyn Lovell and Alice Vilanculo. All are more than
supernumerary on the stage, with a couple of lovely scenes played between them
Rae Smith's set is simple and emotive - with a well considered selection of
portraits in keeping with the casting. A note too for Neil Austin's lighting.
One faulty, thus erratic, light-bulb demonstrating just how carefully the play
had been lit and how little it took to alter the atmospheric balance for a scene
as it malfunctioned. Hopefully a sledge-hammer was found to make a delicate
adjustment before opening night.
A rare opportunity to see an exceptionally mounted and played obscure piece in
the West End. Try not to pass it up.