John Gabriel Borkman Sept.15th,’16

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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.

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Pericles Sept.15th, ’15

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Well, it’s an interesting play … and for everyone who doesn’t know me, that means I’m not overly fond of its plot. But thanks to the truly spectacular cast it was a great experience. It’s a “morality play” , putting the participants through the wringer until they finally and after years of being tested can find their happy ending. And as always with plays that span over decades, it’s hard to cast and even harder for the actors to make their life span believable. Thankfully there’s no shortage of great actors in Stratford.

As it’s one of the less often staged plays, here is a short reminder.

Pericles falls in love with the fair daughter of king Antioch who because of his incestuous feelings for her has every suitor solve a riddle whose answer would blame him of being incestuous. Pericles comes too close to solving the riddle and has to flee. On his voyage to escape Antioch’s wrath he saves Tarsus from a famine. But then shipwrecked he lands in pentapolis where the good king and his daughter (the same actors as Antioch and his daughter, thus depicting how very close good and bad exist together) take him in and after winning in a tournament, daughter Thaisa seeks him as husband. Pregnant she accompanies him to his kingdom, but again the ship wrecks and Thasia seems dead after giving birth to a daughter. So Pericles goes back to Tarsus, to hand his daughter over to queen Dionyza (Claire Lautier and fabulous) who initially wants to help but Marina turns out to be prettier than her own daughter and so the queen orders her killed. The assassin backs away from the deed just long enough for pirates to kidnap the young girl and bring her to Mytilene.

Have enough drama already? Well, it carries on…

Mytilene is also the home of the healer who,17 years earlier, had saved Marina’s mother Thaisa, who wasn’t dead after all. She decided to go to Ephesus to become a priestess of Diana to pray for her lost husband and child.

Meanwhile the pirates have sold the virgin Marina into a brothel, where she then proceeds to escape her fate by bettering her clients. When she does this to Lysimachos, the protector of the city (Antoine Yared and very promising, ie. really nice to look at), he falls for her and gets her a position less dangerous to her honour.

Exhausted yet? We still got a while to go.

Now Pericles has fallen into a deep depression when he learned of Marina’s death and not moved nor washed for over a year. To hopefully find help, his chancellor and friend brings him to Ephesus but the ship is stopped near Mytilene, where Lysimachos tries to make sure the ships’ crews come in peace. When learning about pericles’ condition he sends for “that girl whose songs can heal”- you guessed it – Marina. Father and daughter reunite, Lysimachos and Marina declare their love for each other and finally all is well. To celebrate the good news they continue their trip to Ephesus where they are welcomed by Diana’s priestesses. One of them immediately collapses. It is Thaisa of course who recognises her husband despite beard and bad hairdo. The family is reunited, incestuous king Antioch and his daughter long dead and the murderous queen unhappy. All is well.

I do understand that this was written in the light of virgin queen Elizabeth’s reign. So it would be logical that virgin and everyone virtuous would prevail as long as they are true to themselves and their beliefs. It’s also about what makes a good king, a good father – hence the great idea by director Scott Wentworth to cast several characters with the same actors, thus underlining how close good and bad are.

But sooo long. Great cast, wonderful adaption but sooo long.

Oh And we got filmed. One of the five cameras was right across from my seat so prepare for my premiere !! Also I almost got no seat because my seat was taken by a camera. I got reseated right next to where I’d been though, so all was well.