Through a Glass Darkly, Almeida Theatre, London
Friday 18 June 2010
A few years ago, the Almeida produced a triumphant theatrical make-over of the Dogme movie Festen, but I'm afraid I cannot report a comparable success for its attempt to recreate in stage terms the 1961 Ingmar Bergman classic Through a Glass Darkly. The production is manifestly a high-minded labour of love by director Michael Attenborough and writer Jenny Worton. But when it's divorced from the bleak, brooding brilliance of Bergman's cinematography, with its harrowed close-ups and haunting footage of Faro, the story is left looking as dubious and muddled as it is portentous.
During their holiday on a remote Baltic island, a family comes unravelled as the twentysomething daughter, Karin, spirals into schizophrenic madness. Torn between two worlds, she's increasingly drawn to a derelict attic where, she adamantly believes, she will be granted a privileged encounter with God. We watch the effect of her decline on her helplessly devoted but ineffectual doctor-husband (Justin Salinger), her troubled, pubertal brother (Dimitri Leonidas) and her Trigorin-like novelist father (Ian McElhinney), a disappointed, would-be genius whose monitoring, clinical detachment and furtive desire to exploit her plight for his ingenious but empty fiction are deemed to be part of the problem.
Heartbreaking in her tender, desperate bids to find common ground with this patriarch, and alarming in her unpredictable leaps into paranoid terror and religious rapture, Ruth Wilson compellingly conveys Karin's mounting panic at her divided loyalties. But the piece wants, irresponsibly, to have it both ways with this character. On the one hand, her condition is shown to be the direct result of a genetic illness (the adaptation lays added stress on her deceased mother's struggles with schizophrenia); on the other, we're allowed to form the RD Laingian impression that her madness may have opened up a personal hotline to the divine. Bergman has invested the novelist father (an insufficiently intense McElhinney) with some of his own guilt-ridden angst. In a typically clunky expansion of the movie dialogue, he berates himself for trying to twist metaphysical meaning out of Karin's suffering, but the play itself is playing the same dodgy game.
To 31 July (020 7359 4404)
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
- 2 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 5 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
After Sam Smith’s Mobo success, is the help of a pushy parent the surest route to stardom?
Pottermore: JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story featuring 'greying' 33-year-old wizard
JK Rowling to publish new Harry Potter story online for Halloween
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts