Review Round Up: Persona, Riverside Studios

Find out what critics made of this stage adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 film, officially reopening the Riverside Studios.

(c)Pamela Raith.

The Guardian: ** “The original Persona always felt like a fusing of the sensibilities of Bergman and his lead actors, whereas the dominance here of the narrator turns Krige and Mngcwengi into his marionettes, which hardly seems on-message in a study of female identity.”

The Stage: ** “There are some moving exchanges, and Krige and Mngcwengi give it plenty of muscle as they confront their entangled demons, but there are too many bewildering longueurs in between.”

WhatsOnStage: ** “Bergman’s movie is always cropping up on lists of top films of the 20th century – this authoritative but prosaic stage distillation is unlikely to entice many laypeople to seek it out however. It’s a very long evening in the theatre that actually only lasts just over 90 minutes.”

London Box * “There are far more enjoyable, thought-provoking and energising pieces of theatre on offer elsewhere. Alternatively watch Bergman’s original and infinitely more accomplished film version.”

The Telegraph: *** “Even with fairly constricted performances and deprived of the lingering close-ups that were part and parcel of Bergman’s perturbing black-and-white, avant-garde gaze, some of the screen-play’s power remains – not least in Alma’s still shocking drunken monologue recounting a seaside orgy involving herself, an adult female friend and two pubescent boys. It’s a theatrical footnote, then, to a cinematic masterpiece – a tie-in screening in one of the new cinemas might well have benefited the show. Early days, I guess.”

Evening Standard: ** “The music is a welcome diversion from the more tedious passages, as is the beautiful monochrome film by Filip Haglund of the coast near Bergman’s Swedish island home, projected on the back wall.”

Time Out: ** “But the psychological intricacies that make the original film so fascinating are absent here. The interjection of Bergman’s words brings little insight and the piece builds to a scrambled, hurried conclusion.”

The Upcoming:** “The story itself, and its peak moments, fail to land as they should. The play’s different elements seem disjointed and its buildup lacks intensity and pathos. The production is not without merits, but it places itself in a no-win situation: while it requires background knowledge of the film to fill in the gaps, holding Bergman’s work as reference exposes the stage production’s limitations. Persona remains, though, an interesting experiment and a reason to visit the newly refurbished Riverside Studios – a large, exciting and promising space.”

Broadway World: *** “A coda with horrendous images from the last few years feels a little heavy-handed, foregrounding one element of the women’s psychology when there’s so much more in play. There’s a more rounded version of Persona somewhere – probably, it’s the film.”

The Times: *** “What was once a slightly down-at-heel venue with a leaky roof has been transformed — at a cost of about £50 million — into a much larger complex, a chic, family-friendly mix of performance spaces, cinemas, eateries and TV production facilities, with the main entrance now facing the river.”

Persona continues to play at the Riverside Studios until the 23rd February.

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