There's been a few attempts to portray mental illness on stage lately, and the latest is Jenny Worton's adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly
at the Almeida. I'm not familiar with the original film so am taking this production entirely on its own merits, and on those this is a mess. A talented cast is led by Ruth Wilson, she of the Olivier award and odd-looking face, as Karin, a schizophrenic in one of her healthier times, on holiday with her family. Wilson gives a great performance but it's more or less wasted in a relentlessly dull production. As with director Michael Attenborough's last production at the Almeida, Measure for Measure
, I found this very static and lacking in changes of pace. Since Karin goes from apparently healthy, to delusional, through to completely losing it, this monotony is hard to fathom. I also found the blocking infuriating, and inexcusable from someone who's been artistic director of the venue for the best part of a decade and should be familiar with its eccentric sightlines by now. I've almost always sat at the sides and never had as much trouble seeing all the action as I did tonight (from what I should point out is not
officially classed as a restricted-view seat, at the side of the Circle's front row.) Sometimes entirely wordless action was playing out which I could only just about catch a glimpse of if I leaned forward over the railing.
In Karin's descriptions of the two worlds she feels like she inhabits I caught a glimpse of how the production could have really taken us into the mind of a schizophrenic, but apart from Wilson herself only composer and sound designer Dan Jones makes any attempt at this. The rest of the cast do their best, and Dimitri Leonidas as Karin's brother is a hottie, but ultimately this is 100 minutes of misery that doesn't actually invite you to care for the people caught up in it.Through a Glass Darkly
by Ingmar Bergman, adapted by Jenny Worton, is booking until the 31st of July at the Almeida Theatre.