Having never seen the film it is based upon it is impossible to say how the stage version compares but as the only authorised adaptation of one of Ingmar Bergman’s films, Through A Glass Darkly holds a unique place in theatrical history. Now receiving its World Premiere at the Almeida Theatre, Jenny Worton’s adaptation brings a chill, even on a barmy summer’s day.
It’s an intense and draining 95 minutes, played without an interval as we follow a family of four holidaying on a remote Swedish island. What seems an idyllic holiday scenes soon becomes much darker, as we discover that this isn’t exactly happy families. Karin is holidaying with her husband, father and younger brother but also battling inner demons.
It’s a family struggling to cope as Karin’s grip on reality becomes less lucid and her loved ones disagree on the best way to help her. Sexual tensions are barely hidden and there’s a melancholy hanging over the superficial happiness of the holiday.
Through A Glass Darkly is not easy viewing, nor should it be, and Bergman never clearly identifies what ails Karin, is it illness or religious conviction taken to a whole new level. Despite the ambiguity of the cause it is a gripping piece of theatre. Much of this is credit to an incredibly intense performance by Ruth Wilson as Karin. In a role that could easily be overplayed, Wilson delivers a chilling and beautifully observed performance, wide eyed, trembling and conveying the inner torment plaguing her.
Michael Attenborough allows the tension to build throughout the piece and utilises Tom Scutt’s monochrome seascape washed sets cleverly to frame the piece.
With temperatures pushing 30 degrees outside this is a production to send you out with a shiver down your spine. Not easy viewing, but a viewing that rewards some thought and reflection.