Michael Grandage's production is anchored by three pitch-perfect performances. McDiarmid's Borkman is a confused, deluded man rather than a caged monster, embittered by his eight-plus-eight years of imprisonment but too washed out to begin life again. After his only tenuous grasp on life (contact with the younger generation) is lost to him, his death scene not only makes sense but has the inevitability of Greek (or Shakespearean) tragedy. Suddenly I thought of King Lear, whereas with Scofield I got no further than Donald Wolfit.
Penelope Wilton and Deborah Findley are outstanding. I shan't discuss them in detail here, but I thought they were the perfect catalysts of Borkman's demise. Grandage clearly remembers that Ibsen chose his plays' titles with great care, which is why the two women act like Regan and Goneril on the old man's psychological state.
It's not all good news. I was seriously disappointed in practically all of the minor performances (good old David Burke excepted), and in the case of three younger players I felt I was watching poorly trained stage school graduands of moderate talent giving their anxious all to try and impress when they've heard an agent might be in. - Job
12 Apr 07
A faultless production of an excellent adaptation. You'd be hard pressed to find better performances or production values (wonderful lighting!) anywhere else. Can the Donmar do no wrong? - Gareth James
10 Apr 07
David Baxter has pretty much said it all. I only disagree with his views on the third act. This production is, quite simply, one of the finest I have ever had the privledge to see at the theatre. The cast are terrific but I have to mention, in particular, the absolutely amazing Penelope Wilton. She is, I say adamantly!, the finest stage actress we have in this country today. Sorry Judi, Maggie, but it's no contest with me. Producers and directors take not and give her more things to do. If you have seen the play already you will know what I mean when I say I found myself mesmerised by her even when the other actors are speaking one's eyes keep drifting back to watch her. Well done to Michael Grandage for a great production and keeping the Donmar up there at the top. - rds
04 Apr 07
John Gabriel Borkman is not one of the best known of Ibsen's plays, but it is difficult to see why based on this superb version by David Eldridge and directed by Michael Grandage. The design, by Peter McKintosh, also makes the best use I have seen of the Donmar stage. There are sensational performances from two exceptional stage actresses, Penelope Wilton and Deborah Findlay whose heartbroken cries of grief are as chilling as the closing snowscape. Ian McDiarmid was equally fine in the second act as the title character who takes pleasure in demonstrating his total lack of any feeling for others combined with a monstrous self-deluding ego. However, I was less convinced by his apparent softening in the third act which included a surprisingly unwelcome level of comedy. I have been critical of Grandage's choice of new plays at the Donmar but once again he has demonstrated that there is no-one better at breathing new life into old masters. - David Baxter
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