Reviews West End & Central Published 20 April 2013

Doktor Glas

Wyndham's Theatre ⋄ 16th April - 11th May 2013

Scandinavian noir.

Tracey Sinclair

Although best known in this country as the original Wallander, Krister Henriksson is one of Sweden’s most respected actors, and he brings an effortless command of the stage to bear in this one man show about murder that is dark enough to appeal to fans of Scandinavian noir.

Allan Edwall’s adaptation of Hjalmar Soderberg’s 1905 novel Doktor Glas is a taut psychological study of one man’s ethical dilemma – should he use his position as a doctor to poison the oppressive husband of the woman that he, Glas, has fallen in love with? It’s a quandry made all the more complicated by the fact that not only does he personally despise the husband, the town’s Reverend, but also that he knows the woman in question is in love with another man – so in releasing her from her marriage, he is actually freeing her to find happiness with someone else.

Henriksson is perfect for the role, bringing a bitter self-awareness and even humour to Glas’ tortured mental processes as he imagines the murder and its consequences. He uses his expressive features and body language to great effect as he inhabits the other characters in turn, his voice a model of precision that is obvious even in a different tongue. In fact, while the language is no barrier here, he is slightly let down by the surtitles. One minor glitch aside, they are fine, but the timing could have been sharper – there’s more than one instance where the text gives away the punch line of a particular thought, so the audience is laughing or gasping while waiting for Henriksson to catch up. It dulls the impact of several scenes unnecessarily, and could have been easily fixed with a slightly more flexible approach to the text.

For the most part, though, taut direction by Peder Bjurnman (who is also responsible for the sparse set design) and Henriksson means that Glas grips from the start. A short running time (a mere 85 minutes) means that there is not a line or moment wasted in a piece that manages in turn to be funny, moving and melancholy. Each role is sharply delineated, although the spluttering, lustful Reverend is drawn as such a horrid caricature we care little for his fate, only how it affects the Doktor: a more nuanced approach to character might have made this a more morally ambiguous and therefore powerful piece.

Glas is compelling in his own self-knowledge; he recognises that he is an impossible romantic, bemoaning the undignified physicality of sex, agonising over his own loneliness while condemning himself to solitude by his own inaction. His contradiction is that he is capable of doing the great and the terrible for love, but not the banal, the ordinary; he placidly accepts that the woman he cares about is being heartbroken by her feckless lover without ever declaring his own affections, even while he scorns the attentions of a more available woman. We leave Glas as we find him, alone, the pain of isolation sharpened by the realisation that it is self-inflicted.


Tracey Sinclair

Tracey Sinclair is a freelance editor and writer, a published author and performed playwright. She writes for a number of print and online magazines and most recently has focused on the Dark Dates series of books, including A Vampire in Edinburgh. You can follow her on Twitter under the profoundly misleading name @thriftygal

Doktor Glas Show Info

Directed by Peder Bjurman & Krister Henriksson

Written by Hjalmer Soderberg, adapted by Allan Edwall

Cast includes Krister Henriksson




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