THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY
by Ingmar Bergman adapted by Jenny Worton.
Almeida Theatre Almeida Street Islington N1 1TA To 31 July 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm & 14, 28 July 2.30pm.
Audio-described 24 July 3pm (+Touch Tour 1.30pm).
Captioned 10 July 3pm, 20 July.
Runs 1hr 45min No interval.
TICKETS 020 7359 4404.
Review Carole Woddis 19 June.
Shattering dark glass.
Why make a stage version of a film? In the case of Ingmar Bergman’s 1961 Oscar winner, the question is especially puzzling. Bergman’s skill, aided by cameraman Sven Nykvist, in rendering intense emotional intimacy was legendary. Nonetheless, this stage version, adapted by Jenny Worton (replacing Andrew Upton) and directed by Michael Attenborough, left me overwhelmed.
On Tom Scutt’s scuffed, planked stage, standing in for a holiday home on the remote island of Faro, Bergman’s hermetic quartet act out an agony of familial disturbance made more acute by the interplay between mental illness, paternal disengagement, religious ectasy and adolescent sexual confusion.
As with Mark Haddon’s recent Polar Bears at the Donmar, there is an added, damaging interaction of loving if over-protective (for which read infantlising) husband with an increasingly schizophrenic wife, more pronounced here because the husband himself is a doctor.
Bergman’s original inspiration – the title is taken from St Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians – was said to have been drawn from the non-communication within his own marriage plus his abiding interest in religious faith – no coincidence given his upbringing as the son of a strict Lutheran pastor.
As with so many writers, `madness’ is once again located within the female. But here the instability is allied to a certain visionary (seen from another perspective, you might call it `enlightenment’) as well `sin’ (in the shape of incest).
Ruth Wilson plays Karin as initially wholesome and caring about others before capitulating to alternative `realities’ and, to put it crudely, God as a substitute father-figure. For essentially, Through a Glass Darkly is a wonderfully vivid example of R D Laing’s idea of the family as the seat and cause of neurosis. Bergman paints a deeply critical (self?)portrait of the father-artist as selfish, unfeeling egotist, to which Ian McElhinney lends subtle shades of cruelty and emotional myopia.
Amongst many shocking, if ultimately redemptive scenes, is the discovery by Karin of her father’s diary entry and his interest in her mental `descent’ – as her mother’s before her – as artistic material for his next book. Self-knowledge and love saves him. But Karin? Shattering.
Karin: Ruth Wilson.
Martin: Justin Salinger.
David: Ian McElhinney.
Max: Dimitri Leonidas.
Director: Michael Attenborough.
Designer: Tom Scutt.
Lighting: Colin Grenfell.
Sound/Music: Dan Jones.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Kate Hewitt.