The Theatreguide.London Review
A Glass Darkly
stage version of an Ingmar Bergman film was never going to be a bundle
of laughs. But this adaptation by Jenny Worton, as directed by Michael
Attenborough, proves a surprisingly warm and emotionally involving
human drama, far more accessible and engaging than the Swedish
filmmaker's signature style.
dysfunctional family is on holiday. Karin has just been released from a
mental hospital with a gloomy prognosis for her schizophrenia. Her
doctor husband is loving and protective to a degree she must find
suffocating, while her novelist father continues a lifetime of being
emotionally absent, hiding in his work from any connection with others,
and her younger brother is quite properly lost in his own teenage
the course of a couple of days Karin will relapse while the others face
their inability to help her.
I said, not a
bundle of laughs. But, after a slow start (and before an unfortunate
lapse into soppy sentiment in the very last moments), the bulk of the
play shows us four very real people, all of them flawed but none
villainous, coming face to face with their own limitations and coping
with the self-discoveries as well as they can.
the centre of
the play are two different but equally well-written and well-played
sequences. In one, the husband and father address, as clearly and
honestly as they can, Karin's prospects. their feelings, their failures
in the past and their responsibilities for the future. In the hands of
director Attenborough and actors Justin Salinger and Ian McElhinney,
every minute of the scene rings true and we believe that the men are
wrestling with things that deeply matter.
Karin, feeling a relapse approaching, takes what she feels is her last
chance to explain what is happening to her, describing to her brother
what the voices in her head tell her and how beautiful and love-filled
is the alternative reality they are drawing her toward. Actress Ruth
Wilson captures us with the character's total belief in this vision and
makes us understand its appeal, particularly in its contrast to the
pains of our reality.
way in which
the adaptation falters is in underplaying the religious dimension of
Karin's madness, as the possibility that she might see God in this
other place comes across as just an added bonus to the central
attraction of its loving warmth, rather than as the essence of her
us continually aware of the pathos of Karin's madness while also
letting us understand both its attraction and the conscious
intelligence with which she is facing what is to her a choice.
Justin Salinger captures the dilemma of a man doing all the wrong things for the right motives, while Ian McElhinney shows us a very limited man who would honestly like to be better than he is capable of, and Dimitri Leonidas generates sympathy as the boy being asked to look outside himself at the very point in his life when he should be allowed to be self-absorbed.
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- Through A Glass Darkly - Almeida 2010