Theatre Review: Through A Glass Darkly

Who: University of Adelaide Theatre Guild Student Society. Directed by Guy Henderson.

What: Through a Glass Darkly (based on the 1961 film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman)

When: 11 – 13 July (last show tonight!) Tickets and more information.

Where: The Little Theatre, University of Adelaide (North Terrace)

Abaigh Curry as Karin

At the time of its release, Ingmar Bergman’s psychological drama Through A Glass Darkly (originally Såsom i en spegel in Swedish) was praised as a starkly realistic and disturbing portrayal of mental illness and the torment it can create within a family. The characters and themes are dark and complex, making a stage adaptation an ambitious undertaking. The Theatre Guild Student Society’s production is an admirable attempt at bringing the rawness of Bergman’s most famous film to the stage.

Baulderstone and Curry as Martin and Karin

Karin has recently been released from hospital, where she was admitted for treatment of her schizophrenia. She and her family (father David, brother Maxie and husband Martin) are on an island vacation, and spend their days fishing, swimming and eating together. But family relations are strained – David is a tormented writer, cruelly fascinated by the thought of observing his daughter’s demise and translating this into his work. Maxie is a sexually frustrated teenager who desperately seeks recognition and guidance from his emotionally distant father. Martin is a level-headed yet controlling doctor and husband, persistently trying to help Karin and fit in to the troubled family. Karin’s schizophrenia resurfaces while on the trip. She hears voices that call her through cracks in the wallpaper and persuade her to behave in ways that hurt and confuse the men around her. These dynamics lead to confronting revelations about faith, hope and love.

Seifert as David (left) and Miller-Frost as Maxie

Abaigh Curry is wonderful as Karin. Her delivery was impressively natural and haunting, especially in the scenes of hallucination. Curry portrays Karin as good-hearted and gentle, yet troubled in a way that enthrals the audience. The other performances seem somewhat amateur in comparison. Robin Baulderstone has great moments as Martin, his frustration with David and affection for Karin coming through in some touching scenes. But sometimes his tone and demeanour ventured too close to whininess, which seems inappropriate for the more mature, protective character Baulderstone appeared to want to portray. Though a respectable effort with some good moments of anger and exasperation, I found Cats Seifert’s portrayal of father David quite grating. There was a monotonous and repetitive intonation in his delivery which made it sound very unnatural, and so it was frequently hard to follow. This in turn gave his character an air of pathetic weakness, and though a touch of this may have worked well, this aspect of David was so dominating that any sense of him as an intellectual, troubled artist was unconvincing. Riordan Miller-Frost was interesting to watch as Maxie and handled the challenge of tackling the play’s more sensitive themes well. I enjoyed watching him contrast the others with the youthful brightness and angst of his teenaged character, even if it was predictable (cue ‘no one understands me’ storming-off scenes).

Baulderstone as Martin (right) and Seifert as David

Costumes were noticeably well designed, with pieces that suited the characters and fit them attractively, while also appearing very authentic to the late 50s/ early 60s setting. Set pieces and props were simple, but also fit in well with the period setting. There was good use of the loft area above the main stage of the Little Theatre, which enhanced the ‘two worlds’ Karin saw herself as choosing between through visual metaphor. Effective spot lighting and sound effects further highlighted Karin’s isolation inside her own mind.

Overall, Through A Glass Darkly is an enjoyable watch, and the cast and crew should be proud of their hard work in bringing to life a story that still has an impressive ability to disconcert and provoke thought.

3 out of 5 stars

By Katerina Grypma

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