He also has an instinct for compelling productions. Since seeing Ivo van Hove’s work staged at the Young Vic and the Barbican, Jude Law has 'really wanted to have the opportunity to work with' the in-demand Dutch director.
Now Law stars in Obsession, Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s stage adaptation of Luchino Visconti's Ossessione – the stylish, neo-realist 1943 Italian film about seduction, passion and murder. It should be electrifying.
Yet this play feels undercharged – despite a muscular performance from Law (literally: he prowls the stage half-naked, much to everyone’s delight).
Barbican/Toneelgroep Amsterdam, Obsession, Halina Reijn, Jude Law and Gijs Scholten van Aschat. Photo by Jan Versweyveld
Obsession is removed from the 1940s Italian aesthetic of the film and cast into a contemporary Ivo van Hove universe: an abstract interior, shaped by designer Jan Versweyveld’s angular minimalism, with the entrails of a vehicle and a ghostly, self-playing accordion both suspended from the ceiling.
Law could not be better cast as handsome down-and-out Gino, who comes looking for food at a bar owned by Joseph (Gijs Scholten van Aschat) and his wife Hanna (Halina Reijn).
The plot combines quotidian details with a grander tragic inevitability. Gino seduces Hanna and the affair fuels first infatuation, then destruction, before collapsing towards a chilling climax. Essentially, Gino loves Hanna because he thinks she will follow him on the road; Hanna loves Gino in the hope he will stay with her at home.
Beneath the easy drifter swagger, Law brings an intensity that makes the immediate, magnetic pull between Gino and Hanna plausible. But the mannered, contrived nature of the script means even the best of actors can’t breathe vitality into the dialogue.
Barbican/Toneelgroep Amsterdam, Obsession, Halina Reijn and Jude Law. Photo by Jan Versweyveld
The emotional impact is carried instead through actions. Passion is staged with precision and zoomed-in eroticism. Close-up video projections shows the actors’ faces etched with desire. In the place of orgasm, there’s a savage bite of the hand. Later, bloody brutality is conveyed with black oil gushing from the engine hanging overhead. It’s a stylish abstraction, but doesn’t bring us any further into the drama.
The play hinges on the all-consuming obsession of the title – be it romantic, destructive or narcissistic. But it delivers a diluted, distant approximation of the emotions. As a stylish two-hour drama, it’s watchable enough (did we mention Jude Law’s bare chest?), but is certainly not something to obsess over.
|What||A world premiere from Ivo van Hove and Jude Law: Obsession, Barbican Centre review|
Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS | MAP
|Nearest tube||Barbican (underground)|
19 Apr 17 – 20 May 17, 7:45 PM – 9:35 PM
|Price||£16 - £60|
|Website||Click here to book via the Barbican Centre|