The Theatreguide.London Review
Wyndham's Theatre Spring 2013
A classic Swedish novel of 1905 becomes an intense 90-minute monologue in which a man, thinking that he is preparing himself to confess a crime, is actually discovering and exposing a deep emptiness in his soul.
As performed (in Swedish, with excellent English surtitles) by Krister Henriksson of the Swedish TV series Wallander, it is also a display of mesmerisingly controlled and authoritative acting.
The narrator – in the book he's a diarist – of Hjalmar Söderberg's novel is a doctor obsessively enamoured of one of his patients and moved to rescue her from what he sees as an obscene marriage.
But he is no knight in shining armour and she no fairy princess, and with that realisation comes the understanding that he is not the sort of man who will ever really be loved, least of all by himself.
Lest that sound unrelentingly grim, I should note that the monologue (adapted from the novel by Allan Edwall) is frequently punctuated by flashes of dark humour. But the fact remains that it is almost Dostoevskian in its exploration of a self-tormenting and self-hating soul.
Those who know the novel will find that there are inevitable cuts and losses. Much of the narrator's broader philosophising and observation is gone, secondary characters barely register as they pass through, and some of the novel's strong symbols – flowers, the colour red, etc – make only brief and unresonant appearances.
But what remains is a strong and intense portrait of an ordinary man's psychological and spiritual collapse as he faces just how ordinary he is.
Krister Henriksson confidently holds the stage, unobtrusive amplification allowing him to speak in the quiet, internalised mode of a man thinking out loud, the actor skilfully drawing us to him with his subtle and sensitive underplaying.
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