Review: Rosmersholm, Duke of York’s Theatre

Neil Austin’s lighting design in Rosmersholm at the Duke of York’s Theatre is a thing of beauty and Hayley Atwell is excellent but Ibsen is still Ibsen…

“You see, this is what happens when the general public becomes engaged in politics — they get duped into voting against their own interests”

Chances are if Helen McCrory can’t make me like a play, then few others will be able too either. I first saw Henrik Ibsen’s Rosmersholm with Anthony Page’s production for the Almeida which was…eek…more than 10 years ago now. It didn’t click with me then and in the assured hands of Ian Rickson here, it still leaves me cold. 

You do have to admire the bravado of producer Sonia Friedman, opening a play like this cold into the West End without resorting to any hint of stunt casting.And creatively, this is a triumph. Neil Austin’s hauntingly perfect lighting of Rae Smith’s austerely grand designs is a thing of pure beauty as it evolves throughout the show.

But there’s something painfully static about the play, one of Ibsen’s least performed and once again understandably so, as it depicts any number of debates about the freedom of the press and female emancipation, democracy and morality and liberty and more. Talk is fine but there’s so much of it at the expense of any dynamism that we end up feeling as trapped as the characters.

Hayley Atwell stands out as the proto-feminist Rebecca, emotionally entangled with widower Rosmer (an under-powered Tom Burke) and Giles Terera also impresses as his brother-in-law Kroll, as they tackle the enormous price paid for daring to challenge the status quo. Too little stirs the heart though, not enough emotion to cut through the density of this weighty text.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)

Photos: Johan Persson
Rosmersholm is booking at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 20th July

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