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Marian Pashley

Review: ROSMERSHOLM at The Duke of York's

Rosmersholm Play The curtain rises to reveal a stunningly detailed and evocative set, the interior of a hauntingly shadowed and seemingly twilit, dust sheet covered room. The walls were hung with many partially obscured portraits, the wooden floors looked ancient and worn to smoothness.

Ibsen's unsettling play starts with Rebecca opening the windows to light and air, as it soon becomes apparent she is urging that the room be used once more, as it was now a year since the suicide of the lady of the house. It also soon becomes apparent that the darkness in the house is not just because of the closed windows, it is because of shame, a shame at once personal, political and societal.

Pastor Rosmer (Tom Burke), the head of the household, is guilt ridden and mystified not only by his wife's death, but also at his loss of faith and burgeoning discomfort with his inherited privilege. It being election time in the town, he is called upon by his brother in law (Giles Terera) to make a stand against the radicals who threaten to shake the status quo of staid Rosmersholm, and from this unsettling challenge comes the unravelling of the house of Pastor Rosmer. Hypocrisy upon hypocrisy, and secrets hiding secrets tumble forth until there is nothing left to hide, or save.

The political truths of this classic play are at times quite stunningly relevant today; the eagerness to raise a leader to an unreachable idealised status, only to drop them and let smash to pieces once they are revealed to be as flawed as the rest of us humans are, the willingness of the politically ambitious to be utterly without mercy and of the noble poor and down trodden to become quite ignobly self interested. Some of the utterances of the alcoholic burnt-out radical Ulrik Brendel, played with tragic charm by Peter Wight, seem almost demonically prophetic of the leadership cults of personality we have seen in the last few decades of the western world.

I loved the atmosphere of the play, created by set and lighting, managing to be suffocating whilst comforting, and the actors were mostly superb. I had some issue with the sometimes frenetic mobility of Hayley Atwell's Rebecca West, which seemed at times in awkward contrast with Tom Byrne's dispassionate Rosmer, but overall I was left visually and intellectually stimulated by a curiously modern classic.

Rosmersholm tickets