Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wolves in the Snow (John Gabriel Borkman - Donmar Warehouse)

If tonight's theatre outing was experimental, Monday nights was very straight down the line, Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman at the Donmar.

John Gabriel Borkman was a succesful and influential banker until he was imprisoned for fraud. 8 years after his release he now paces his upstairs room like 'a trapped wolf', while downstairs his estranged wife Gunhild broods over her family's disgrace and dreams of her son atoning for his father's misdeeds. Into this bleak midwinter comes Grunhild's twin sister Ella, rival to Grunhild for the affections of both her son who Ella took in after his father was disgraced and for Borkman himself.

This is a story of how personnel (male) ambition can leave families devastated in their wake. Unlike Karsten Bernick the hero of Ibsen's earlier Pillars of the Community there is never any question of Borkman renouncing his drive for power, even if that mean dragging himself and his former lover out into the middle of a snowstorm.

Michael Grandage's production has quite rightly been showered with praise, with . It would be all too easy to let the hysteria that is always bubbling underneath the surface of all the main characters dominate, but thanks to some strong performances, especially from Ian McDiarmid as the downtrodden Borkman who slowly dscovers the old megalomania is still there.


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