Were the critics obsessed with Jude Law in Ivo van Hove's Obsession?
Law stars in Toneelgroep Amsterdam's adaptation of Luchino Visconti's 1942 film
Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage
"On Jan Versweyveld's characteristically vast and empty set, bisected by a step, with windows at the rear and a plain kitchen bar to one side, van Hove conjures the most magical opening as Jude Law's Gino wanders into view, playing the mouth organ, a vision of untrammelled liberty."
"The intermittent use of video is just one of van Hove's favourite devices that fill the production; we also see the strewing of the stage with rubbish, and hear a soundscape (by Eric Sleichim) that mingles opera with Iggy Pop."
"Some of these tropes are more effective here than others; the vision of Law running on a treadmill, eyes wide in his desperation to escape the consequences of his love is powerful as is the staging of the husband's murder with the trio locked in a nightmarish embrace beneath an engine spewing black oil."
"As Gino, Law looks the part, handsome and muscular in his T-shirt and without it. He is better at anger and desperation than love, but touchingly reveals a dreadful self-knowledge as he realises he is trapped by a web of his own making."
"But too much on view here feels under-whelming and under-par for a director who can normally introduce white hot revelation into everything he touches."
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard
"The production is underpowered and rarely feels exciting. Followers of van Hove's career will note many similarities to his recent take on Hedda Gabler at the National Theatre — there's a sense here of ideas and gestures being recycled."
"At times Eric Sleichim's sound design is ravishing, even if the bursts of opera and Woody Guthrie are heavy-handed. But visually the production is either bland or ugly, except when adorned with exaggeratedly romantic projections of seascapes."
"The atmosphere is cold and disengaged, and the script, a version by Simon Stephens of Jan Peter Gerrits's Dutch adaptation, is trite and mired in cliché. Instead of an intoxicating experience, we're left with something coolly stylish and portentous."
Michael Billington, The Guardian
"Jude Law is the big draw in this stage version of Luchino Visconti's 1942 movie and he is beautifully matched by his partner-in-crime, Halina Reijn."
"The whole thing is very classy, but the production has the stylish aestheticism we have come to expect from the director, Ivo van Hove, and that doesn't entirely suit the subject. At the end it descends into sentimentality."
"Played without an interval and running at more than 100 minutes, it becomes a psychological study in erotic obsession but with none of Visconti's atmospheric detail."
"Some things in the play... are very good. The sex is much more explicit than in the film and the two lead actors go at it with a vengeance."
"It is well executed, but lacks the power of the Visconti movie that shows passion arising out of sordidness and poverty."
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
"Anyone who's anyone needs a bit of van Hove on their CV these days. So what if the production turns out to be a dud. The trick to being Europe's most feted director, you see, is to be interesting even on an off-day – and in fact confuse everyone as to what an off-day even constitutes."
"Obsession is van Hove's response – using flat-as-Holland dialogue by Simon Stephens – to the 1943 Visconti film Ossessione... van Hove has junked the Italian trappings – save for some operatic outbursts – and, deploying a design horribly reminiscent of an under-used foyer in the Barbican itself, exposes his actors on a bare-minimum stage."
"You don't have to be fully obsessed with Law to enjoy this wayward, by turns gripping, gritty and grating, affair but it sure helps."
Natasha Tripney, The Stage
"When the slow ascension of a projector screen from the floor of the stage is the most exciting thing to happen in a story about a passionate and destructive sexual relationship, something's gone seriously amiss."
"But something has been lost in the transition from screen to stage. There's a weird sense of detachment to the whole production, a coolness. The dialogue is sparse and there are a couple of moments that border on the daft."
"It feels a little bit like van Hove is running low on ideas. There are moments here reminiscent of the most problematic bits of his recent Hedda Gabler with none of that production's ability to grip. Reijn does this strange litter dance where she flings rubbish about the stage, crawls on her hands and knees a lot, and – sigh – ends up stripped to her knickers for a scene where she and Gino take a bath together."
"And some of the lines in Simon Stephens' translation sit about as easily in the mouth as those rock-hard toffees that everyone avoids in boxes of Quality Street."
Obsession runs at the Barbican until 20 May 2017.