In a world of ice and snow, the cold creeps inside you and kills.
This is a play about responsibilities and acceptance – we delve into the ugly hidden depths of a pathologically dysfunctional family with no sense of belonging, to the music of pacing to and fro, all the time, every day and night, and it hurts.
John Gabriel Borkman (Scott Wentworth) is a bank manager who got caught embezzling money – a lot of money – from his clients. After five years in jail he has been home for eight years but his desperate, futile,and ineffective attempts at proving his “innocence” have kept him locked and pacing in the upper ballroom of his once grand mansion which now is derelict and filled with papers, letters and files. The lower floor belongs to his wife Gunhild (Lucy Peacock) who hasn’t spoken to him since his trial. She too is trying to prove something. She feels betrayed – she’s better than being the wife of a criminal. so her son Erhart (Antoine Yared) will have to rectify the situation, he must restore the house to former glory and therefore must sacrifice his life to that cause.
Into this oppressive, cold and sickly family barges Gunhild’s twin sister Ella (Seana McKenna) with a plan of her own. She was the only client of Borkman who didn’t lose money. She was Borkman’s love. A love that got sacrificed for the career Borkman had, advancing from the simple miner with the urge for a better life than listening to the or sing when it comes loose, to a banker with status. Now she wants Erhart – the son she never had but whom she took in for years because Gunhild couldn’t cope – to care for her – in exchange for money.
Ella is the catalyst that brings everything down. Gunhild reveals her controlling, bitter self, Borkman is deluded enough to hang onto his shiny past to make it right there instead of trying to start anew. And Erhart has found a more cheerful prospect on life in the arms of a “naughty” ill reputed woman and won’t fulfill his mother’s dreams of justice, nor his father’s dreams of work, nor his aunt’s dreams of having a carer in her last days.
The tragedy is that neither of them actually advances. Ella will be clinging to Gunhild who in return will inherit money. Erhart goes from one dependency (his mother) to another (the woman of ill repute who takes him with her) and Borkman? When he finally leaves the upper ballroom to breathe in the fresh cold air he sees his plans before him again. Imprisoned in a past that never happened he envisions an or- fuelled future that already started without him. An icy iron hand clasps his heart… alone , even though Ella is with him, he dies in the snow, only finalising what had already happened years ago.
The two sisters try to grasp each other…
The play was so riveting I went to see it twice. A stellar cast feeding off each other on stage is a rare thing and should be worshipped like that. Wentworth once again dominated the play, his self assured delusions frighteningly real. That he takes his bows jokingly in the rhythm of the dance macabre did make the transition from wintery Norway back to Stratford easier. His warm demeanour towards this still awestruck fan was a huge bonus.