Strongly cast, straightforward Ibsen, from a BBC collection, keeps this difficult late work in motion, even when it’s all talk. A strange, compelling play, at times uncomfortably realistic, it’s a chamber piece for a sour married couple (Diana Rigg/Anthony Hopkins), their disabled son (Eyolf), the husband’s (half)-sister (Emma Piper), her persistent suitor (Charles Dance) and the Rat Charmer (Peggy Ashcroft), a shabby character who lures pests out to sea where they drown. In the cumbersome psychological world of Ibsen, you know someone will follow this old bird to a bad end since character is as much catalyst as destiny at the final curtain. The first act brings Hopkins’ author manqué back from the mountains where he’s suspended work on his grand treatise about Human Relations; a subject he knows nothing of. Rigg, the wealthy wife who’s happily supported him, now finds him changed, no longer all hers. But whom to blame? Incestuous passion from his loving sister? A surge of interest toward the child she finds an annoyance & he ignores? The play truly opens up after a tragedy with the second & third acts given in near abstract settings that might house Wagner’s TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, with bared emotions & slashing truths served ‘neat.’ It’s a great gaping wound of a play.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Here’s your chance to see Rigg & Dance together three & a half decades before GAME OF THRONES.