It’s hardly your typical West End production – a one-man show performed in Swedish with English surtitles – but Doktor Glas brings a breath of fresh air to the London stage with its compelling tale about a physician whose passionate obsession with a female patient drives him to moral destruction.
The story begins as Doktor Glas narrates an encounter with a patient in his surgery. This patient, Mrs Gregorius, approaches the doctor for help when she is no longer able to endure the sexual advances of her husband, a corrupt priest who forces her to have sex by claiming that it’s God’s wish. Falling for the beautiful young woman, the doctor agrees to assist, but just how far is he willing to go in order to save her from this miserable marriage?
An internal struggle ensues as the doctor – armed with tablets of potassium cyanide – is torn between what is morally right, his duty as a doctor and his own feelings, with Linus Fellbom’s lighting design serving to reflect the two sides of Glas’ personality, utilising light and shadow to juxtapose the doctor’s immense kindness with his dark tendencies.
Wallander’s Krister Henriksson, the man tasked with portraying this turbulent character, lifts the story from the pages of Hjalmar Söderberg’s epistolary novel and places it on stage with a simple elegance that sees the actor embody each of the personalities described in the doctor’s diary.
Henriksson’s striking performance sees the tormented doctor periodically morph into the repulsive reverend and his vulnerable wife as he endows the subject of his obsession with a soft vulnerability and the clergyman with a grotesque ugliness; his voice oscillating between faint whispers and impassioned roars as Glas relives his encounters with the couple.
An intense psychological look at the integrity of one man, which asks whether it is possible to condone the murder of another human being, this deeply poetic piece moves you to your core, leaving you with an image of desperate loneliness and a realisation that his love will never be reciprocated.