ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London Review
Paul Hilton is made for these turn of the century performances of angst and intellect when, as Johannes Rosmer, he struggles to come to terms with the suicide of his wife. With his long dark sweep of hair, high forehead and pale face which looks as if he never sees the sun — he epitomises Norwegian despondency. Helen McCrory has long and blonde hair for this role as Rebecca West, the character who inspired another feminist and author to change her name to Rebecca West. And that is where the mystery starts for me. What is it about this woman that one would want to identify with? Yes she has an independence of thought and a certain avant garde way of appearing in her very demure Victorian nightwear and dressing gown but there is her ambition. She confesses to having manipulated Beata and Rosmer so that the wife's predictions that Rosmer would leave the Church and live with Rebecca almost come true. Has Rebecca also encouraged Beata's notion of commiting suicide? McCrory gives the character enigma and vulnerability in the tearful scene when Kroll reminds her of the scandal of her upbringing.
Malcolm Sinclair with his icy stiff, censorial manner has all the rectitude of Doctor Kroll, the right wing politician and brother in law to Rosmer and brother to Rosmer's dead wife Beata. Written five years after Ghosts, Rosmerholm's Kroll is the character who upholds societal values and reminds us of the ghastly Parson Manders. It is Kroll's role to let us know what the Rosmer name represents to the small community in terms of continuity, conservatism and tradition, something that Johannes can't fulfil. The Rosmer ancestral family portraits hang on the wall as a constant reminder. Whereas Rosmer is all doubt and self questioning in transition from centuries of family responsibility, Kroll has the certainty of his political view. In an interesting cameo, Peter Sullivan as the left wing editor and politician Peder Mortensgaard serves to inform us of Rosmer's criticism of his extra-marital affair from Rosmer's then pulpit — strange bedfellows indeed.
Paul Moriarty is Ulrik Brendel, Rosmer's old university tutor whom he holds in such affection despite Brendel's present difficulties with alcohol and unreliability. There is also a spirited performance from Veronica Quilligan as the fox-like housekeeper Mrs Helseth, looking like a diminutive Agnes Moorehead, who drops hints and gossip as she polishes the wood on the upholstered chaise longue. Her tight prejudices emerge in a wave of judgmental spleen, "Children at Rosmersholm never cry and when they grow up they never laugh." she says.
The sets are Scandinavian and accurate confined within Rosmersholm itself. Anthony Page's production is full of gloomy, trapped atmosphere and the new translation by Mike Poulton has made Ibsen's melancholic work more explicable. This is well worth seeing!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.