John Gabriel Borkeman – Abbey Theatre, Dublin

Posted: November 6, 2010 in Reviews, Theatre
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I went to see John Gabriel Borkeman at the Abbey Theatre on Thursday night. I’m not the biggest Ibsen fan, though I admit that this opinion may be the result of being surrounded by pretentious thesps for far too long, the kind that say ‘Yah! Yah! And did you see Opera North’s Don Giovanni? Frankly I don’t know why they bother, they’re just not The Royal Opera House!’ as they tail off into horse laughing.  I digress… John Gabriel Borkeman was one of the best evenings I’ve spent in the theatre for a long time. I always worry when I see celebrities in plays (it’s almost as if they think the play isnt enough to sell itself -whole different debate), and this cast was stellar; Alan Rickman in the title role, Fiona Shaw as his wife and Lindsay Duncan as his ex-fiance. Fiona Shaw belongs in a league of her own, she embodies a role completely, her voice, her expression, her posture -she never stops acting for a single moment, there really is nobody quite like her. I wondered whether I’d be able to believe Alan Rickman’s acting, having seen him play so many different characters on screen, but it was. He delivered his opening monolgue impecabley, you could have heard a pin drop nobody was moving in the audience. Lindsay Duncan is an interesting performer to watch, she rarely alters her facial expressions, I noticed it in the BBC/ HBO TV series Rome, that she didn’t in that either, which makes it more effective when she plays emotion, it adds a chilling dimention to her performance which is of course perfect in Borkeman as she’s playing a spurned woman reaching later middle age.

My only real criticsm of this production of Borkeman was the snow on stage. I’m a big fan of Snow Business -the company that supplies snow effects for theatre and film, they have machines that can create truly beautiful, realistic snow effects, they’re also pretty much industry standard, so why why why didn’t the design team use them? Huge areas of the stage was covered in polystyrene balls… the type you fill bean bags with, I’ve worked on shows where this is used and it’s horrid stuff that sticks to clothes with static and is really difficult to brush off… And that’s what happened to Fiona Shaw’s costume as she walked around the parlour set (snow was lining the front of the stage). But this is just nit picking really, I can’t honestly say there was an aspect of the production that I didn’t like, definitely the best show I’ve seen in the Abbey in a while.

It’s on for another two weeks… Go see it if you get the chance it’s well worth the money!


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