It is the play that been described as Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s masterpiece. Rosmersholm has arrived at the West End, starring Hayley Atwell and Tom Burke. The play seems to have arrived to the stage at the right time with its themes of press manipulation, and political change.
Rosmersholm opened at the Duke of York Theatre May 2nd, and will be running until July 20th.
Tom Burke (Strike, The Musketeers) gives a strong performance playing John Rosmer, who is haunted by the history and tradition of his family. Hayley Atwell (Avengers) perfectly delivers Rebecca West, the unpredictable, free-spirited heroine from the city who is introducing forward thinking and new age ideas. While Giles Terera (Hamilton, West End) gives Andreas Kroll a powerful moral voice, but its a role of pomposity, delivered with sensitivity as he struggles to reconcile his friendship with Rosmer and his changing political ideas.
The ideas in Henrik Ibsen’s classic, written in 1886, could apply just as well to today’s political climate. In Rosmersholm, an election is looming, and the press is out for blood, often cynically altering the narrative of politics. Kroll fears giving the public power to vote against their interests, duped by the press, and he sees a doomed election, based on “feelings, not facts.” In reaction to this, Kroll has brought the rival paper and wants to use it to sway public opinion. The play’s powerful themes mirror current contemporary problems, in Rosmersholm’s world it is the power of the press to manipulate the outcome of an election, rather than as in today’s world of fears of manipulation by social media and fake news.
In a Rosmersholm promotional video, Atwell described a classic as something that is both ahead of its time, while also reflecting the time when it was written. “You have two opposing political sides fighting for the same thing but coming from different sides,” she said. Which is exactly what it is. Kroll struggles to adjust to his friend Rosmer’s new ideas and political beliefs, and blames it on Atwell’s character, while Rosmer feeling suffocated by his and his family’s past, believes that things need to change.
While the play deals heavily with politics that sing close to home over the issue of a manipulative press dealing in fear, it is clearly ahead of its time with Atwell brilliantly portraying Rebecca West, a liberated woman who wants to have ‘dominion’ of herself, her thoughts, ideas and body. A proto-feminist ahead of her time.
The power of Rosmersholm will leave you gasping in awe, while also praising the forward-thinking ideas of Ibsen that speak truly to our own times as well.