Last night I watched two dramas. One at the theatre - the Almeida’s production of Ingmar Bergman’s Through A Glass Darkly. The other was on television, the much promoted Lennon Naked...
As a life long fan of the Beatles and Lennon in particular I was looking forward to this dramatisation of Lennon’s life from 1967 to 1971 and with Christopher Eccleston taking the lead, I thought I was in for a real treat. How wrong could I be?
This was a travesty in every sense. A parody of the period and its principal
players. Wigs, visibly stuck on moustaches, embarrassing costumes, poor art
direction, unimaginative cinematography, lack lustre direction and above all
duff performances. How could the BBC get it so, so wrong?
I had an inkling of a bad omen when last month the actress Naoko Mori, who plays Yoko Ono, appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek. Presenter Libby Purvis asked her if she was pleased with the production. After a short intake of breath she said, “ Well, I wish we’d had a bit more time’. She should have added – and a better script, recasting and a new production team. I had thought that the overly praised Sam Taylor Wood film Nowhere Boy was bad enough but in comparison to this BBC disaster it was like gold dust. It’s on BBC iplayer for the next seven days, check it out for yourself.
A still from Bergman's original 1961 film production
Conversely my visit to the Almeida was a joy. If you have seen Bergman’s original film version of Through A Glass Darkly 1961 this stage production – the only one of his films that he gave permission to be adapted for the stage – is masterful in every way. It centres on the mental disintegration of Karin who is holidaying on a bleak island with her husband, father and brother. As the play unfolds we see how Karin is perceived through the eyes of her loved ones and their dilemma with how best to help her back to stability.
On the Almeida’s tiny stage the audience was transported into a world of mental torture and complexity with the aid of a beautifully understated set, designed by Tom Scutt. A sparsely used and very effective score and sound design by Dan Jones and sure footed direction by Michael Attenborough. But it was the quartet of performers that must be applauded. And at the centre of that was Ruth Wilson...
who revealed such emotional depths in her performance. It was as if she was
standing naked in front of us all on that stage in that collective experience
of live theatre.
This was in direct contrast to Naoko Mori in Naked Lennon who did in fact stand complete naked in a rather embarrassing recreation of the infamous album cover photograph for Two Virgins. What an utter waste of my license fee and a real missed creative opportunity.
For more information about the Almeida production of Through A Glass Darkly click here