Vol. 5 Num 698 Wed. May 17, 2006  

Ibsen Commemoration '06, Bangladesh
John Gabriel Borkman
A conflict between instinct and social mores

John Gabriel Borkman is the eponymous character of Henrik Johan Ibsen's play. Like many of his other counterparts from the school of naturalism, Borkman believes that greed, selfishness and hypocrisy are universal traits. Often these characteristics come up against the enduring values of ethics and morality. This explains why Borkman, a former bank manager, justifies his embezzling of money from the vault as 'no crime'. In his view, people in his particular circumstance would have done the same. A question remains: Does society approve of his logic?

Through the tragic end of Borkman and his family, Ibsen's play John Gabriel Borkman features the eventual victory of social codes -- ethics and morality. While all the play's characters are selfish, nobody finds happiness and serenity.

On May 15, the Department of Theatre and Music of Rajshahi University staged John Gabriel Borkman at the Experimental Theatre Stage as a component of the ongoing 'Ibsen in Young Eyes' theatre festival. This is a part of Ibsen commemoration '06, Bangladesh.

Director Habib Zakaria has successfully created the varied conflicts -- the conflict between the inner and outer self of Borkman as well as between Borkman, his wife Gunhild, his ex-beloved Ella who is also the twin sister of Gunhild and Borkman's son Arhart. An interesting turn to the play is when in quest of happiness, Arhart leaves his parents and aunt to go with a married woman named Mrs Wilton, who is seven years older than him.

Shabin Shahriar created a realistic interior design of a European house. However, the unprofessional handling so many symbolic effects as well as the frequent shifting of the set elements were jarring for the audience.

Another flaw was using two actors -- Monoj Kumar Pramanik and Shahanshah-Ul-Haque to enact the role of Borkman.

Monoj Kumar Pramanik gave a soulful performance. His body language, gesture and voice modulation successfully presented the cruelty of a selfish person. However, the second actor who performed the same role was not as impressive. Saki Farzana in the role of Ella was impressive. The rest of the cast needs to put their hearts into the play.

A scene from the play