Skip to Content

Through a Glass Darkly

Ruth Wilson is a commanding presence. Still fresh from drama school, she was selected by Stephen Poliakoff to play both – very different – female parts in Capturing Mary. She was both unnerving and magnificent as Alice Morgan in BBC1’s Luther. I had the privilege of seeing her on stage yesterday afternoon playing the part of Karin in Through a Glass Darkly. Imagine that presence in a small theatre in Islington, with a cast of only four. Where, even with back of the circle, it feels as if you might be on stage with her.

Madness, in its various forms, appears to suit Ruth. But she suggested recently in her interview for the Guardian that, having spent time with a psychologist in preparation for various roles, she is not convinced that madness exists, just an inability to distinguish between internal and external voices. An inability to keep the inner voices hidden.

This interests me. The manuscript that I am working on at the moment is about three characters in the same family who keep their inner voices hidden from each other. Occasionally the inner voices rise to the surface, not necessarily in madness, but in the type of behaviour that is deeply unsettling to others.

Lisa Appignanesi’s book Mad, Bad and Sad explores why women have been categorised as mad far more often than their male counterpoints over the years, but also looks at how, once categorised as mad, similar behaviors are portrayed. We decide what a mad person looks like. They begin to conform.

Every day I walk the same loop around my local park and I look forward to my encounters with a rather loud young man who has no intention of conformity. Every day he asks me the same question: “Hello lady. Where is your dog?” and I tell him that I don’t have a dog. Reluctantly, he offers to lend me his Jack Russell. Whilst some people consider him to be mad (who else would talk to people they don’t know?), to him, I am the mad lady in the park who has no real reason to be there. He feels sorry for me. I need to be saved from myself.  Often, I find myself envying him.

Jane saw Through a Glass Darkly at the Almeida Theatre, running until 31st July. Through a Glass Darkly is the only film that director and screenwriter Ingmar Bergman gave permission to be adapted for the stage.