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A CurtainUp London London Review
Doktor Glas

Nothing so demeans or drags down a human being as the consciousness of not being loved. — Doktor Glas
Doktor Glas
Krister Henriksson (Photo: Mats Baeker)
In Swedish with surtitles, Swedish actor and star of the television detective series Wallander, Krister Henriksson brings Allan Edwall's adaptation of Hjalmar Soderburg's 1905 novel Doktor Glas to London. It is a psychological tale of a physician caught between his desire for the wife of a despicable and repulsive local clergyman and his own sense of morality and duty to the Hippocratic Oath. The comparison is made by novelist Margaret Atwood in the accompanying programme between the three characters as those of a knight, a troll and a captive maiden, except that it isn't as simple as the fairy tale ending of killing the troll and carrying away the fair maiden.

Of course this is a huge treat for Swedes in London and Krister Hendiksson enlivens his one man story with imitations of the troll like clergyman contrasting with his lovely young wife who seeks the doctor's advice as to how she can limit her husband's persistent and inconsiderate sexual demands. The actor's body language as the obnoxious Reverend Groothuis is creepy and obsequious. With a delicate female voice, Henriksson tells us, "I have developed a terrible loathing for my husband," and brings to life the pleas of the pastor's fragrant and beautiful wife.

Much of the narration, although it takes the form of the good doctor's journal, is like a dream, and Linus Fellbom's extraordinary lighting creates atmosphere and tension. A gauze curtain is drawn back to open the play and reveal the doctor's consulting room, simply decorated but dominated by a large silver light that you might find in an operating theatre. Light falls from the windows on one side of the room. At one point the whole stage is bathed in red light, a blood red backdrop for the description of a sinister dream he has about removing Reverend Groothuis' heart. The visuals are remarkable. Besides the lighting shifts, the doctor pulls papers from his desk drawer and the light cream papers float down in a shower, a dramatic and unforgettable moment.

Sadly, to take in the surtitles you have to raise your eyes away from the actor, but I witnessed enough of his performance to be caught up in the nature of the obsession he felt for the young woman and her predicament. In true Scandinavian style, there are no good outcomes in this tragedy as the doctor has to live with the consequences of his actions and the woman's youthful, debt ridden suitor Klas Recke meets and falls in love with another woman and then is "surprised to learn that she is very rich."

The language too surprises: whether it's the description of the sound of the old pastor walking on the gravel or Klas Recke having the "debts of a crown prince" or the explicit and anatomical piece of self reflection from Doctor Glas, "Why must our desire be quenched via that organ we use as a waste pipe?"

Dr Glas is an international production only too rarely seen in London.

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Doktor Glas
by Hjalmar Soederburg
Adapted by Allan Edwall
Directed by Peder Bjurman and Krister Hendriksson

Starring: Krister Henriksson
Set designed by Peder Bjurman
Costume Designer: Kartin Hoeg
Musical Director: Leif Jordansson
Lighting: Linus Fellbom
Running time: One hour 30 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 0844 482 5136
Booking to 11th May 2013
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 18th April 2013 at the Wyndham's Theatre Charing Cross Road, London WC2 0DA (Tube: Leicester Square)

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