Theatre Review: Through A Glass Darkly

An exploration into mental illness and strained family relationships, Through A Glass Darkly focuses not only on the effects of one woman’s struggle with schizophrenia, but also the emotional turmoil experienced by those close to her.

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Presented by University of Adelaide Theatre Guild
Reviewed 11 July 2019

An exploration into mental illness and strained family relationships, Through A Glass Darkly focuses not only on the effects of one woman’s struggle with schizophrenia, but also the emotional turmoil experienced by those close to her.

After being recently discharged from a mental hospital, Karin is excited to spend a weekend away with her author father David, younger teenage brother Max, and caring husband Martin. While the weekend starts off on lighter conversation about catching crabs and the delightful weather, it is clear that an abundance of with-held feelings boils underneath the pleasant conversation. As time goes on, familial tensions begin to grow and polite conversation falls to the wayside as hidden emotions are confronted, with a strong focus on David’s physical and emotional absence as a parent.

As the weekend starts to spiral, so does Karin’s mental health creating twisted emotional and sexual situations between the group of four. While taking the advice of her hallucinations Karin pushes away her helpful, doctor husband, she draws in her younger brother, exploiting his sexual inexperience to the horror of the audience. While witnessing the family holiday fall to pieces and Karin’s devastating relapse, the audience also discovers the mental and emotional issues rife within her father, brother and husband as well. It turns out that even though Karin was the person admitted to hospital because of her mental health, she might not be the only one who needs help.

Originally created as a film by Swedish writer, director and actor Ernst Ingmar Bergman, Through A Glass Darkly was released to much acclaim in 1961, even winning the 1962 Oscar for Best Foreign Film. It has since been adapted for the stage and become a celebrated stage production in its own right.

While employing a relatively simple and minimalistic set (reminiscent of simple Swedish style), Director Guy Henderson has cleverly utilised not only the projector available in the Little Theatre, but also the upper level of the stage, combining the two to create a physical representation of Karin’s mental removal from reality. Scenes where symptoms of Karin’s schizophrenia start to take over are played out in front of a projection of a beautiful and gentle yellow and white delicate floral design disfigured by large unnerving tears, mimicking the mental tears within the kind-natured and beautiful Karin. In these moments, Henderson immerses the audience within her hallucinatory mind by filling the theatre with a skin-crawling voice over of multiple whispering voices whose words and orders are incomprehensible.

With only a small cast of four, there is a lot of pressure on the actors to make every scene work and they succeed in energetically bringing the script to life. Abaigh Curry as Karin is delightful to watch as a young woman filled with life, drawing the audience emotionally in to her terrifying bouts if hallucinations. Riordan Miller-Frost gives an exceptionally notable performance as Max, capturing his youthful innocence mixed with resent-filled flaming anger and frustration.

Presenting a rollercoaster of emotions and family tension reaching its emotional climax, Through A Glass Darkly fully captivates its audience as they witness a family holiday slowly disintegrate into a terrifying mental relapse, one with which there may be no coming back from.

Reviewed by Georgina Smerd

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