Fear and loathing in the fjords of Norway
Rosmersholm (Duke of York’s Theatre, London) Verdict: Heavyweight acting for heavyweight drama
TOM BURKE is turning into one of our finest young actors. If you only know him from Strike, or The Musketeers on TV, head to the Duke of York’s, and you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.
But then, Ian Rickson’s revival of Ibsen’s ignored 1886 drama is packed with riveting performances, including ones from Giles Terera and Hayley Atwell. The play needs them: this is Ibsen in extreme gothic mode . . . and slightly bonkers.
Burke plays Rosmer, a former pastor who’s lost his faith after reading radical literature. We find him mourning a wife who crushed herself to death in the town watermill. Happy days!
As unrest spreads across Norway, Rosmer is pursued by an ominously liberated young woman (Atwell). She is a live-in femme fatale determined to hold him to his impossible revolutionary ideals.
He is further torn between his devout brother-in-law Kroll (Terera) and a radical newspaper editor ( Jake Fairbrother). The scene is set for a Herculean struggle between tradition and conscience.
Burke’s fathomlessly intense Rosmer makes Immanuel Kant sound like a comedian. Atwell is a firestorm in a pleated frock, seeking dominion over her thoughts, body and future.
No less impressive is Terera, who demands we take seriously his reactionary moralist who equates women and children with servants and horses.
Peter Wight delivers a fabulous cameo as a deranged vagabond. Fairbrother is reptilian as the editor. And I loved Lucy Briers’ housekeeper, scanning the room at every entrance.
But kudos, too, to Rae Smith’s set. Her vision of a stately home is like a mouldy, devouring maw.
Heavy? You bet! But acting of this quality should not be left to chin-stroking Ibsen fans.
Tom Burke: Tormented