Ibsen’s ‘John Gabriel Borkman’ opens in London to great reviews

 Date:15/02/2007 - 14/04/2007
 Type:Culture, Performing Arts
 Location:England, London

Over 110 years after the first ever public performances of 'John Gabriel Borkman'took place at the Avenue Theatre in London on 14 December 1896 in the form of a reading, Ibsen's dramatic play is back in the British capital in a new version. The latest production at Donmar Warehouse has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from the UK theatre critics.

Ibsen wrote ‘John Gabriel Borkman’ in Christiania (Oslo) in 1896. The play is partly based on material he had become acquainted with a whole generation earlier. In the Christiania of the 1850s there was a court-case against a senior officer. He was found guilty of fraud and committed to prison with hard labour for four years. After his years in prison he cut himself off completely for many years, and is said not even to have spoken to his wife. Ibsen heard of the case during his first stay in Christiania (1850-51) and followed up the officer’s subsequent fate - as far as he could - during his second period in Christiania (1857-64).

This new version by David Eldridge directed by Michael Grandage at the Donmar Warehouse, follows John Gabriel Borkman, who disgraced and destitute following a fraud scandal and imprisonment, paces alone in an upstairs room. Downstairs his family are trapped in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a household on the brink of turmoil. A scorching indictment of 19th century capitalism, Ibsen’s penultimate play paints a devastating picture of selfish ambition.

The cast includes Ian McDiarmid, Penelope Wilton, Emma Beattie, David Burke, Lolita Chakrabarti, Lisa Diveney, Deborah Findlay and Rafe Spall. This line-up has impressed theatre critics with The Independent’s Paul Taylor calling Ian McDiarmid’s interpretation of John Gabriel Borkman as a “remarkable performance”. He continues: “It treads a fine line between tragedy and absurdity, and with the aid of a sharp new version by David Eldridge, Michael Grandage's beautifully acted revival at the Donmar does handsome justice to both the haunting desolateness of the play and its undercutting comedy.”

The Times's critic Benedict Nightingale writes "At times this produces melodramatic moments — “I alone will be his mother, I alone!” shrieks Findlay’s ultra-possessive Gunhild as the curtain falls on Act II — which remind one that David Eldridge is translating a 19th-century play. Yet to judge it by naturalistic criteria is an error. Here, it’s a stark, scary, strangely beautiful dramatic poem."

Read some of the reviews: The Independent, The Times, Telegraph, Financial Times and The Guardian.

‘John Gabriel Borkman’
15 February – 14 April
Donmar Warehouse,
41 Earlham Street, Seven Dials, London WC2H 9LX
Tickets: £13-£24
Box Office: 0870 060 6624 (No booking fee)

Ian McDiarmid performance as John Gabriel Borkman has been hailed by the critics as 'remarkable'. Photo: Johan Persson

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Actresses Penelope Wilton, with Deborah Findlay in background, have received great critics for their roles in ‘John Gabriel Borkman’ .Photo: Johan Persson

‘John Gabriel Borkman’ runs at the Donmar Warehouse until 14 April.Photo: Johan Persson

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