conceived by Ivo van Hove and based on the film Ossessione by Luchino Visconti.
English language version Simon Stephens.
The Barbican Theatre, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS to 20 May 2017 and in cinemas on National Theatre Live on 11 May.
Tues-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Sun 3pm.
Runs .1 hr 45 mins No interval/
TICKETS: 020 7638 4141/
Review: William Russell 25 April
Ivo comes a cropper
There was a time when the Dutch director Ivo van Hove could do no wrong as far as the critics were concerned, but inevitably times change and his latest translation of a Visconti movie to the theatre is a pretty rum affair which has been much derided. It is not a dud, but given that the Visconti film was based on the James M Cain novel The Postman Always Rings Twice it really ought to have been much better than it has turned out to be. The emperor this time seems to have no clothes to speak of, a bit like his star as it transpires.
The stage is virtually bare, the main prop being the chassis of a truck suspended precariously centre stage to show we are in a garage. As always with van Hove things are minimal. However the story depends on being specifically located in a subnbaked, repressed world, and here we are in avant garde limbo inhabited by some talented Dutch actors speaking unconvincing English. They do not mesh with the leading man, Jude Law who plays Gino, a drifter who takes up with the discontented wife of a garage and café owner and learns a terrible lesson. Law, although he is the best thing in the show, is more Essex man than a lusty Italian vagabond and the Dutch remain resolutely as Dutch as apple pie.
Visconti and Cain had a good story to tell, and Law and the Dutch actress Halina Reijn as the unfaithful wife do strike erotic sparks as lust overwhelms them on first sight and those barren walls of the set are suddenly covered in glorious Technicolor images of them doing much more than they are doing on stage. But the English language script is stilted, the plotting careless – things happen off stage or are not explained – and one ceases to care one way or the other as Gino discovers love is not all it is cracked up to be and that he has been set up as the patsy who will kill the unwanted husband.
There is a slightly odd homoerotic subplot involving another drifter played by Robert de Hoog who urges Gino to come away with him and forget the broad, and an even odder one involving another available girl as ready to take her clothes off for Gino as Ms Reijn played by Ausha Kala. As for the director’s decision that the thirsty priest and the investigating policeman who erupt on the scene from time to time should be played by the same actor, it is no fault of the player – Chukwudi Iwuji – that it makes no sense at all.
However Mr Law smoulders powerfully throughout and for his performance alone Obsession is well worth catching. He has always been an actor who returns regularly to the stage to flex his theatrical muscles, doing so here quite literally since his shirt keeps coming off to reveal an impressive well oiled torso. His fans will not be disappointed by what they see even if the play does not overwhelm them.
Gino: Jude Law.
Hanna: Halina Reijn.
Joseph: Gijs Scholten van Aschat.
The Priest/The Inspector: Chukwudi Iwuji.
Johnny: Robert de Hoog.
Anita: Aysha Kala.
Director: Ivo van Hove.
Set Design & Lighting: Jan Versweyveld.
Adaptation and Dramaturgy: Jan Peter Gerrits.
Video: Tal Yarden.
Composer & Sound Design: Eric Sleichim.
Sound System Design: Tom Gibbons.