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Jude goes Dutch, but is let down by a dull production

Review

Obsession

Barbican, ★★✩✩✩

JUDE LAW excels at morally ambivalent, sexually dangerous leading men, so he is right at home as Gino, a passionate, free spirit in this Toneelgroep Amsterdam production from visionary director Ivo van Hove. Based on the 1943 Luchino Visconti film, it’s a story of uncontrollable desire. Against the heat-withered tumbleweed of a roadside café, Gino and his lover Hanna plot to murder her brutish older husband.

With his rolled-up shirt sleeves and plangent melodies on the mouth organ, Law exudes a powerful swagger, but he is let down by Simon Stephens’ horribly workaday script.

And while he and Halina Reijn’s Hanna initially go at it like alley cats, I was never persuaded they had anything like the sexual chemistry required to propel this tale.

The real problem, though, is the production. Van Hove has opened up the Barbican stage to create a cavernous, abstracted space, but by leaching away the specificity of the setting, he sacrifices the story’s social context. And while he is rightly renowned for his revelatory remakes, here his trademark tricks feel like clichés. My eyes rolled when Gino beat up a fellow drifter to an abrupt burst of The Stooges: with van Hove, we’ve been here before.

Law eloquently suggests Gino’s inner torment, caught between regret over his actions and the whims of — in Reijn’s intelligent performance — an untrustworthy woman. But from van Hove this dull production is a rare dud.