Theatre review: Doktor Glas, Wyndham’s Theatre, London
Friday 19 April 2013
Which walking wreck of a Wallander did you prefer on television? The surprisingly convincing Kenneth Branagh version of the wiped-out alcoholic detective, or the more obviously authentic Swedish original of Krister Henriksson?
Either way, it’s still misery a-go-go all round, for while Branagh warms up for Macbeth in Manchester, Henriksson has landed in London with his acclaimed 2006 monodrama, Doktor Glas.
Doktor Glas is a stressed-out Stockholm physician who has fallen in love with a female patient whose husband is a sexually demanding and physically revolting pastor. Helga wants Glas to “diagnose” an infection of the womb so she can continue an affair with another man.
The story derives from a 1905 Swedish confessional novel by Hjalmar Söderberg, a friend of Strindberg, that became a bleak Mai Zetterling movie in 1968 and a successful one-man show shortly after; Henriksson is doing that Allan Edwall adaptation, and flagging up a psychological crisis involving sex, death and cyanide in a time, he says, of violently fluctuating public morality.
Watching Henriksson, patently a great actor, but one who is here shamefully microphoned, presumably so that he can whisper the words in a cinematic hush, occasionally backed by a creepy soundtrack, is a mixed blessing. He’s played Peer Gynt, as well as Leontes for Ingmar Bergman, and he has a great trick of conveying inner turmoil with an absolute minimum of expression.
But with the false sound system, he’s not in the same room as us, and that matters in a play that is really all about the audience eavesdropping. Also, while the dramatic situation is indeed intensely dramatic, it’s not translated into good theatre as a) there are no other characters on stage and b) Doktor Glas never wins our sympathy in the manner of the true button-holing tragic hero.
There’s one great moment when he “tests” the fatal pill in a sleight of hand, and he seems finally to inhabit a twilight world between his own reality and the nightmares that have shaped his destiny; the lighting of Linus Fellborn casts sickly colours and silhouettes on the various encounters Glas relates on either side of a traverse curtain in his office.
But the wind-up at the end, with a quick blast Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day,” is a sure sign that the rest of the performance hasn’t quite done its work, and Henriksson retreats to his den and draws the curtain.
To 11 May (0844 482 5120)
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 VMAs 2015: Was Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus' awkward acceptance put-down real or staged?
- 2 If you're not already angry about the migrant crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
- 3 Rules on 5p plastic bags likely to lead to arguments at the check-out
- 4 I like Corbyn, but let's face it: we don't need another white man at the head of a political party
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
X Factor hopeful Mason Noise: 'How is Cheryl Fernandez-Versini in the music business, let alone a judge on the show?'
Trevor Noah, Edinburgh Fringe review: New Daily Show host warms up in inspired style
X Factor 2015: Ratings drop almost 2 million compared to last year's launch show
VMAs 2015: Kanye West runs for president, Nicki Minaj calls out Miley Cyrus and the list of winners in full
VMAs 2015: Taylor Swift and her buddy Kendrick Lamar clean-up at awards - full list of winners
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up