What pushes Toneelgroep, a Dutch theatre company, to revive the story behind the neorealist cinematographic debut for Italian director Luchino Visconti in 1943? The story is originally taken from The Postman Always Rings Twice, a novel by James M. Cain, written in 1934, therefore US origins, Italian transposition, a version plagued with censorship and lack of distribution during the fall of the Italian fascist regime. The premises are melodramatic, the story itself and some of the dialogue during the performance feels dated, though the feelings are universal: lust and ambition and the feeling of entrapment that a woman feels, the narrow options at her disposal to get out of poverty, hence marriage to an older man running a restaurant and annexed garage. A dreary life till the arrival of a drifter changes it all. The drifter on stage has the looks of Jude Law, getting closer in his features to Michael Caine in is mature days. The play directed by internationally acclaimed, Belgian director Ivo van Hove seems to boil down to how every person getting in contact with Gino, the sensitive drifter, man or woman alike, can hardly keep their hands off him.  the theatrical devices used to express the feeling of entrapment, the remorse, the guilt, the drifter’s realization of having being used, his disgust at being required to step into the shoes of a murdered man, feel trite. After the murder, I kept on visualizing the presence of the ghost of Giuseppe, the murdered husband on stage, following in their footsteps, oppressing their every step. It wasn’t to be. It provides intense viewing, especially at close range, but somehow it feels restrained and disconnected. It could have been updated for the 21st century, it should have been bolder.

Obsession Barbican Theatre 27 April 2017

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