Hearts of Darkness

Article excerpt

Byline: RACHEL HALLIBURTON

John Gabriel Borkman

Greenwich

THE two sisters stand like refined Gorgons in black velvet, trapped in old age with little to show but hatred and regret. The snowy vista outside seems a haven of warmth compared with the emotional temperature in a house where the malignancy of failure and disillusionment has turned both the sisters and John Gabriel Borkman - the man they once loved - into monsters.

Ibsen was obsessed with businessmen with hubristic, empire-building aspirations, partly because his ambitious merchant father had gone bankrupt when the playwright was only eight. With the recent high-profile collapses of Enron and Marconi, there is a bitingly contemporary relevance to the plight of Borkman, who has lived a life of obscene luxury as an entrepreneur until his five-year imprisonment for embezzlement, and now prowls up and down in his room like a wolf without any sheep to hassle.

Visually, English Touring Theatre has used Ibsen's metaphor to create a starkly beautiful set, which initially displays an elegant drawing room with a grey velvet sofa, divided from the fir trees and snow outside by a gauze screen. …