Feb 4th, 2019
Political and personal ambition collide in this intriguing melodrama by Henrik Ibsen, as adapted by Duncan MacMillan, finally making its West End Debut after some 133 years after its original outing. At the centre of it all is John Rosmer (Tom Burke), the incumbent of the fading grandeur that is his titular family pile, and a man in crisis. Once a respected pillar of the community, the former Clergyman has lost his faith, his wife, and seemingly his reason when his former brother in law - unaware of this sea change - comes to call looking for an endorsement for his campaign in the upcoming election. Consummate conservative Kroll, (beautifully acted by Giles Terera) is astonished to discover his friend's revolutionary about-turn from traditional ideology to impassioned socialist and suspects Rosmer's houseguest, the far-too-opinionated-for-her-own-good Rebecca (Hayley Atwell), may be the cause. The former companion of the late Mrs. Rosmer, Rebecca now appears comfortably ensconced as the lady of the house and it appears her modern ideas and feminine wiles have infected the grief-stricken Rosmer. Something must be done.
It's a simple enough concept for a play, but the execution is anything but. Ibsen twists expertly from clever and timely meditations on the ruling classes vs social change and the age-old danger of women thinking too much for themselves into something haunting and alluring, a gothic horror that questions Rosmer's morality, memory and ultimately, his sanity. Burke (BBC's Cormoran Strike) navigates these choppy waters with a charming ease and disbelief that becomes builds to an unexpected climax. Opposite Atwell carries Rebecca from affected interloper to something far more perilous with a quiet glee. As the politics and the rest of the cast, (a special mention to Lucy Briers as loyal housekeeper Mrs. Helseth) are swept away into the background, they are enthralling as their country of two', and the final moments of Ian Rickson's direction are not ones I will soon forget, especially on Rae Smith's incredible set - another character itself.
From the vantage point of a week later, it is still difficult to categorise in my mind, the journey from the beginning to the end thrilling, memorable, and thoroughly enjoyable - yet like the fabled ghost of Rosmersholm, an unseen White Horse, quite terrifying to recall.
Rosmersholm is now showing at the Duke of York's Theatre until the 20th of July
View our show pages for more information about Rosmersholm, Duke of Yorks Theatre.
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