Review: John Gabriel Borkman

October 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

John Gabriel Borkman-(written by Henrik Ibsen-a new version by Frank McGuinness-The Abbey Theatre,

October 13th-November 20)

Cast: John Gabriel Borkman-Alan Rickman
Ella Rentheim-Lindsay Duncan
Gunhild Borkman-Fiona Shaw
Erhart Borkman-Marty Rea
Fanny Wilton-Cathy Belton
Vilhelm Fodal-John Kavanagh
Freda Fodal-Ann Molloy
Marlene-Joan Sheedy

Written by Henrik Ibsen in 1896, this play was based on an earlier incident Ibsen heard of, about a army officer who having being accused of embezzlement, tries to take his own life.
John Gabriel Borkman however tells the tale of  a bank manager who takes his clients money to fund a development of his own and is ratted out by a love rival just before he manages to pull off the scam. (Mention the word bank manager and the name ‘Sean Fitzpatrick‘ is breathed by world weary people here, so this play seems particularly timely in it’s current outing) It is also a love story, set in a snowy landscape, which offsets the coldness of Borkman’s cold heart. Ella Reintheim is his true love, but he marries her twin sister Gunhild to please his employer who would like Ella for himself. The employer, Hinckle, is perfectly happy to turn on John Gabriel when he finds out his crime.
Ella and Gunhild’s relationship is torn apart by both Borkman and his heir, Erhart (Gunhild’s son) who becomes the new target for both their affections when Borkman is incarcerated and later released-only to be banished to an upstairs room in the family home where he paces relentlessly.
With terrific performances by the main leads, John Gabriel Borkman is a journey into the overwhelming destructive affects of power-hunger. It’s depiction of claustrophobic, dependent relationships can be a touch melodramtic, but overall it is stunning night out. Lindsay Duncan is particularly powerful as the wounded sister Ella, and John Kavanagh shows what a brilliant actor he is, by even convincing he is Norwegian. Alan Rickman plays the overweening hubris of Borkman with some charm and subtlety, while Fiona Shaw as the bitter Gunhild is funny, stagey, but stangely human.

Mary Wogan


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