Review: Rosmersholm

4 star rating
Love and politics make for an excellent production - the acting is first class and the set design really compliments the emotions the characters are going through.
Rosmersholm at the Duke of York's Theatre

Image courtesy Duke of York's Theatre



Closes here: Saturday 20 July 2019

Author:
Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Duncan MacMillan

Composer:
Stephen Warbeck

Director:
Ian Rickson

Cast:

John Rosmer - Tom Burke

Rebecca West - Hayley Atwell

Mrs Helseth - Lucy Briers

Peter Mortensgaard - Jake Fairbrother

Andreas Kroll - Giles Terera

Ulrik Brendel - Peter Wight

Gavin Antony

Ebony Buckle

Piers Hampton

Maureen Hibbert

Robyn Lovell

Alice Vilanculo


Synopsis


Ian Rickson directs Tom Burke and Hayley Atwell in the West End premiere of Duncan Macmillan's startling new adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's gripping and piercingly relevant work of personal and political passion Rosmersholm.


An election looming.


A country on the brink.


A rabid press baying for blood.


At the centre of the storm is Rosmersholm, the grand house of an influential dynasty.


This is where the future will be decided by John Rosmer - a man torn between the idealised hope of the future and the ghosts of his past.


'Ibsen's masterpiece' (Michael Billington, 2008) is a twisting thriller and stars two electrifying actors in the leading roles.


Tom Burke (Strike, The Musketeers) is the soulful Rosmer haunted by history and tradition. Hayley Atwell (Howards End, Captain America)  is Rebecca West, one of Ibsen's greatest heroines.


Enigmatic and unpredictable, free-spirited Rebecca brings the winds of change to Rosmersholm with the force of a hurricane.


Background


Rosmersholm is the tenth collaboration between Sonia Friedman Productions and director Ian Rickson (including The Birthday Party, Mojo, Old Times, Betrayal, Jerusalem) and marks a second time working with award-winning writer and director Duncan Macmillan, who previously collaborated with Sonia Friedman Productions on the West End and Broadway run of 1984, which he co-adapted/co-directed with Robert Icke.


His other plays include People Places and Things which enjoyed huge success in London and New York. 


ActDrop reviews


Claire Heaven

Performance date: Thursday 30 May 2019
Review star rating image

It is amazing to think that Henrik Ibsen wrote Rosmersholm in 1886.


Amazing because the play is so relevant in today's political turmoil of Brexit, Trump and the fake news era.


Rosmersholm was the last play in a series Ibsen wrote about how the established political parties of the time were being challenged by more 'radical' views, and, on a personal level, how individuals dealt with loss and shame.


Fast forward 100+ years, and the issues we've had with Brexit (and continue to have) are plainly echoed in this play.


These similarities are funny, insightful and yet somewhat depressing - that we don't seem to have learned any lessons from the past!


Whether or not the timing of this production of Rosmersholm is coincidental or deliberate, our current political climate gives the play an extra layer of enjoyment and depth.


Even without all that, Rosmersholm is a great production.


The acting is first class and the set design really compliments the emotions the characters are going through.


Duncan MacMillan has adapted Ibsen's original play to ensure this production is pacey and never misses a beat.


The revised story goes something like this: Rosmer's wife took her own life a year ago.


Her brother-in-law is the governor and an old friend of Rosmer.


Rosmer's wife's companion - Rebecca West - has stayed on living at the family home.


Rebecca is an outspoken 'radical' woman who thinks and speaks for herself.


She may or may not harbour feelings for Rosmer.


The play starts on the eve of an election, where the established government of the privileged class are on the brink of losing the election to a more socialist party.


The governor - Kroll - is of course leading the charge for keeping the status quo and is incensed that Rebecca has poisoned Rosmer's mind and has made him turn from his faith to become a radical.


The play unfolds organically as the three main characters interact over dinner and through the night into the next day.


It is essentially a series of conversations of character dissection, revelation and evolution, acted by talented individuals.


Hayley Atwell shines as Rebecca West.


Ms Atwell is adept at the nuances of her character's shrugs and eye rolls, as well as the bursts of raw emotion.


It was a joy to watch her reveal Rebecca's demons.


When acting is done superbly, it is effortless.


The actor just exudes the character in all their glory and gore.


And Ms Atwell does this in spades.


Giles Terara was also excellent as the indignant and superior governor.


He portrayed his character's righteousness with authority and panache.


I did feel that at the end of the play there could have been more of a reveal from his character recognising he had made a mistake.


I think that would have been more powerful than just relying on a set prop (which I won't reveal so you are surprised if you go and see the play!).


While Tom Burke as Rosmer was solid, I felt he was the weakest of the three main actors.


Mr Burke has been in a number of BBC dramas, one of the more famous being The Musketeers.


He was excellent as Athos - the right amount of bravado, leader and guilt for a past he couldn't reconcile.


I just didn't see that same 'wow' in his portrayal of Rosmer.


Mr Burke seemed to come alive more as the play progressed, but I think he could have better conveyed his tortured soul and conflicted feelings, to match Ms Atwell's performance.


There were also two good performances by the supporting actors.


Peter Wight, as Rosmer's old teacher, has two great scene-stealing moments.


And the housekeeper played by Lucy Briers had just the right amount of dour disapproval that makes you giggle.


While the play is about loss of faith, political ideals and love, there are also some very funny moments.


Both Henrik Ibsen and Duncan MacMillan have woven together a rich story, that is as sad and dark as it is enjoyable.


All in all, an excellent production and worthwhile seeing for Hayley Atwell's performance alone.


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