Review: Luminous central performance
Theatre: Through a Glass Darkly Project Arts Centre
If Bergmanesque Scandinavian profundity is what you are after, this show is just up your fjord. A family takes a holiday on an island. There is novelist father David, always prioritising the work. His 16 year-old son Manus is an aspiring writer and desperate for his father's approval. His daughter Karin has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Karin's devoted husband Martin makes up the foursome.
The script is adapted from the Ingmar Bergman film by Jenny Worton and was originally produced at the Almeida Theatre in London.
While a stage play transferred to the screen often feels overdone and in need of pruning, a film transferred to the stage can feel underdeveloped. The stage lacks the amplification of the cinematic close-up and the power of landscape. Director Annie Ryan seeks to replace these elements with a commanding use of the physicality of the actors within the space, and is largely successful in this. The production is very effectively scored, much like a movie, by Denis Clohessy.
Karin snoops in her father's diary; the callousness of a writer using loved ones' troubles to feed his work is shocking to her. Beth Cooke is excellent, sometimes calm and quite ordinary, then she flips into a febrile and highly agitated state, hearing voices she says are making her do bad things. When the bad thing finally happens, the intensity of the moment is perfectly directed.
Colin Campbell creates a super little brother Manus, deeply confused about his physicality and also conflicted about porn mags. Peter Gowen is subtly self-regarding as the father. Peter Gaynor's Martin, lacking in demons, is an anchor of sense amongst all the hysterics.
This is an intriguing study of how the monstrous creative ego can lay waste to all around it. For an embodiment of that damage, you will not see better than Cooke's brilliant interpretation of the central part. She provides a raw and shining heart to all the Bergman gloom.