THEATRE / Pure shower power: Ibsen's Rosmersholm

AS A means of deterrence, the poster advertising the Young Vic's Rosmersholm would be hard to improve on. Engaged in what looks like an absurd training session (or not-so-dry run) for their watery end in the mill-race, Rebecca and Rosmer are seen embracing, fully clothed, under the sprinkling jet of a shower bath. Francesca Annis's face is tilted ecstatically upwards while Corin Redgrave turns to the camera with a doleful expression that could be on the verge of saying 'This is another fine mess that she's got me into.' Happily, Annie Castledine's interesting account of Ibsen's great play avoids ever living down to this publicity photograph, even if there are one or two moments when it is a close-run thing.

The production's best feature is, in fact, Redgrave's fine Rosmer, the Norwegian country pastor from aristocratic, socially influential stock. The repressive traditionalism of these forbears is felt here in the suspended rectangle of mortar-boarded and judicially bewigged busts that lower grimly over the action in Jenny Tiramani's resourceful design. It's this overhead tribunal that is at once defied and ironically propitiated at the end when the lovers, rejecting all external authority, pass stern judgement on themselves.

Under Rebecca's influence, widower Rosmer is on the point of moving forward into an emancipated liberal future, when guilt-inducing spectres from the past stop him in his tracks. Impressively, though, Redgrave's performance shows you the pastor's instinctive emotional dependence on the conservative community even as he is in the process of intellectually rejecting it. About to announce his political conversion to the reactionary Kroll (Allan Corduner), Redgrave keeps up a steady nervous knocking on his brother-in-law's hands; it's a gesture which actually seeks the reassurance it is trying to impart. Inner weakness seeming to leak like a faint film of sweat through his rangy frame, Redgrave's clinging body language suggests that Kroll is right to think that Rosmer is not one of nature's outsiders.

Annis makes a bewitchingly beautiful Rebecca but one who would be more at home, you're forced to feel, in out-and-out melodrama. The unwitting victim of an incest syndrome, the all-too witting schemer who pushes Rosmer's first wife to suicide, the heroine does indeed have lurid hues in her make-up. With a maniacal laugh deployed whenever possible, an ecstatic, flouncingly free-spirited manner and satirical coquettishness, Annis's Rebecca brings these out too glaringly. She shows you the adventuress, but gives you insufficient glimpses of the uneasy woman who reveals in the last act that her courage has been broken by Rosmersholm. If the manner adopted here is supposed to be a cover for semi-conscious guilt, it must be judged an inordinate success.

There are moments when the performance is genuinely moving (her orgasmic response, for instance, to Rosmer's offer of marriage, followed by a slumped, fearful rejection of it), but a lot of the time, it's crudely overacted. She doesn't just mildly tease the housekeeper about the superstitions connected with Rosmersholm, she pops her symbolic white shawl over her head and play-acts a parody ghost. When she discovers through Kroll that she may have committed incest, the gagging is on a par with Dame Edna's, though she does cover her mouth.

The final scene is powerfully handled and there is some vivid work in the supporting roles (particularly from Bernard Lloyd as the derelict idealist, Ulrik Brendel). Miriam Karlin, however, has taken it on herself to be somewhat over-endearing light relief as the housekeeper, with the result that when she says of the Rosmers that when they grow up they never laugh, it gets a delighted laugh. If anyone would benefit from a dip in the mill-race, you end up feeling, it's her.

Continues at the Young Vic, The Cut, London SE1. Box office: 071- 928 6363

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas