Review Round Up: Obsession, Barbican

Jude Law stars in Ivo van Hove’s production of Visconti’s film – but does it work as well on stage as it does on screen? Here is what critics have said about it: 

Obsession

The Guardian: *** “The whole thing is very classy, but the production has the stylish aestheticism we have come to expect from the director, Ivo van Hove, and that doesn’t entirely suit the subject.”

The Daily Mail: ** “It all lacks atmosphere but, much more fatally, emotional engagement.”
The Independent: *** “offers an experience where the nature and atmosphere of the material and the director’s aesthetic bent are in danger of cancelling each other out.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “too much on view here feels under-whelming and under-par for a director who can normally introduce white hot revelation into everything he touches. It is absorbing but unlike his best work never essential.”

The Stage: ** ” While Law is a more than capable stage actor – he’s easily the best thing in this – the material does him no favours.”

Radio Times: *** “at times the vast Barbican stage feels like too large a canvas; you can’t help but wonder if the play might benefit from a more claustrophobic space.”

Time Out: *** “In ‘Obsession’ there is no great lead role, and Law feels like an impressive adornment on some fascinating, baffling, maddening invention.”

The Telegraph: *** “You don’t have to be fully obsessed with Law to enjoy this wayward, by turns gripping, gritty and grating, affair but it sure helps.”

Exeunt Magazine: “Jude Law and Halina Reijn are fine actors – as are their co-stars Gijs Scholten van AschatChukwudi Iwuji, Robert De Hoog, and Aysha Kala – but that none of them can salvage anything – certainly not passion – from Simon Stephens’ lazily flat adaptation, and that such an obviously classy ensemble should not have been so profligately wasted on such an insubstantial text.” 

Broadway World: *** “van Hove’s preference for abstraction, rather than Visconti’s realism, proves problematic. Rather than amplifying the primal, it distances us and sets the story adrift: melodrama untethered by place or time.”

Culture Whisper: *** “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.”

City Am: ** 1/2 “His latest production, Obsession starring Jude Law, carries his unmistakable visual flair, but it’s a disjointed affair, filled with gambles that don’t quite pay off, not quite up there with his best work.”

A Younger Theatre: “the stage version pays little attention to the elements that lend the film its slow-burn suspense and tightly wound tension.”

The Upcoming: *** “Obsession, though substantial and ambitious, never quite hits its stride.”

London Theatre.co.uk: *** “Law is muscular, attractive and suitably aggressive exceeding at this overly realistic style that draws you in to him rather than shut you out.”

The Times: ** “A raging Jude Law adds fine fury to an otherwise passionless play.”

Islington Gazette: ** “An excellent cast is failed by the direction. Instead of increasing intensity, the prolonged silences and sparse dialogue function only to make the production feel vacant.”

Evening Standard: ** “Instead of an intoxicating experience, we’re left with something coolly stylish and portentous.”

British Theatre Guide: “when he gets it right, viewers get a completely fresh take on familiar material and this gripping new adaptation of a movie classic, featuring wonderful central performances by Jude Law and Halina Reijn as the lovers, is one of those events.”

The FT: **** “Jude Law blows away all the reservations I have previously had about his onstage work. Torn between the twin hungers for Hanna and for the road, Law’s Gino broods compellingly for virtually the entire 100-minute duration.ly had about his onstage work. Torn between the twin hungers for Hanna and for the road, Law’s Gino broods compellingly for virtually the entire 100-minute duration.”

There Ought to be Clowns: “Obsession isn’t necessarily van Hove at his best (and lord know we’ve been spoiled there), it still makes for a fascinating piece of theatre.”

Theatre Cat: “Law moves through the slow, portentous interpretation like an actual human being, restrained and strong and heartfelt. Two of the mice are for him alone.”

Plays to See: *** “Van Hove’s productions, with their sparseness, lyricism and simplicity – really depend on having solid performances at their core. When they do, they can be mesmerizing. When they don’t, they run the risk of becoming dull and indulgent. Unfortunately, Law’s performance drags Obsession in that direction.”

Obsession continues to play at the Barbican until the 20th May. For more information visit: http://www.barbican.org.uk/theatre/event-detail.asp?ID=19729