REVIEW: The Enchantment National Theatre

PUBLISHED: 12:16 06 September 2007 | UPDATED: 14:37 07 September 2010

Four star rating Victoria Benedictsson is hardly spoken of outside her native Sweden. And when she is mentioned there, her exploits as a novelist and playwright are of secondary importance. Instead, it is her death that people reca

The Enchantment

National Theatre

HHHHI

Victoria Benedictsson is hardly spoken of outside her native Sweden. And when she is mentioned there, her exploits as a novelist and playwright are of secondary importance.

Instead, it is her death that people recall first. A protracted affair with Georg Brandes, one of the greatest literary critics of the late 19th century, led her to cut her own throat.

Benedictsson's Enchantment is an autobiographical spewing of the prelude to this very tragedy - a case of life imitating art. She knew there was great stigma attached to a woman who stepped out of the bounds of convention.

Her alter ego is Louise Strandberg (Nancy Carroll) who shuns sensibility and marriage in favour of a charming-Parisian sculptor named Gustave.

In a vain attempt to escape the clutches of passion she flees Paris and returns to Sweden. Yet she has already fallen under his spell. When a letter arrives from Gustave expressing his dying love, Louise yo-yos back to France.

Gustave is the most wicked of men, he is the sort to declare his love one minute and boredom the next. At some stages of this play you ask yourself: Is this a feminist diatribe or a serious drama? The answer is yes on both counts.

Played in the round, Paul Miller's impressive production invites us into Louise's world of self-destruction and innermost fear. Carroll is both evocative and tragic in her portrayal.

Yes, we sense a desperate pity for her, but we are also informed of a multi-faceted character wrapped in fervour for Gustave.

It's this strand of the play which is gripping. Clare Bayley - currently taking the Edinburgh Fringe by storm with The Container - has adapted Benedictsson's era and message with undoubted skill and connection.

Until November 1.

Rene Butler

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