from an original work by Henrik Ibsen
Ibsen’s powerful penultimate play concerns the downfall of a corrupt banker.
John Gabriel Borkman has been in voluntary seclusion in an upstairs room in his drab mansion since enduring a prison sentence for embezzlement. Still blindly hoping his career will be reignited, only his clerk Foldal, an aspiring poet, has remained loyal to him throughout the years. Unhappily married to Gunhild, she is surprised when her twin sister Ella arrives. Having been tossed aside by Borkman in favour of her twin, Ella was left to raise their only child, Erhart. Now that he’s grown up and in love with an older woman, the sisters become locked in a desperate spiritual battle over his future. As Borkman rages against the confines of his claustrophobic household, he ventures out into the snowy hills where he finally learns the true consequences of a love betrayed.
The play forms part of Ibsen’s late symbolic period. Somewhat left behind by the success of his naturalist plays, John Gabriel Borkman enjoyed a resurgence in the late 2000s as the global credit crunch started to bite and the story of Bernard Madoff’s elaborate Ponzi scheme was uncovered. The play enjoyed two hefty revivals in this period: at the Donmar Warehouse in London in 2007 directed by its then Artistic Director Michael Grandage and at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 2010, directed by James Macdonald.
This version of John Gabriel Borkman was first performed at the National Theatre in London in 1996, directed by Richard Eyre and starred legendary stage actor Paul Scofield in his last performance for the National Theatre.