Attending the show on it’s final night at the Traverse, I had absolutely no idea what I was about to see. Seeing Roberta Taylor (Karen Blixen) performing was more than enough to entice me and, to a degree, I wasn’t disappointed. Written by Thor Bjørn Krebs, The Baroness is his interpretation of the relationship between two writers Thorkild Bjørnvig and Karen Blixen.
When I left the theatre, I was bubbling over, satisfied with what I had seen. But having reflected on it for the past week or so, I realise that it was quite a flat production. Not the fault of the text, which was fascinating, but for a relationship that was dubbed “platonic and sexually charged“, the onstage portrayal had as much sexual allure as a pancake.
Yes, Thorkild (played by Ewan Donald) was captivated by Karen’s presence; fascinated but not entirely sure why; angry at what it eventually does to him; but I didn’t see sexual, least of all from the very woman who instigates the relationship. Nor did I see attraction, mere fascination at best.
Similarly with the character of Benedicte (played by Romana Abercromby), until she kisses Thorkild, it felt like she was just…hanging around. So when the kiss occurred, it was incredibly uncomfortable to watch. There was no real sense of attraction from Benedicte, leaving the audience with only Thorkild’s childlike gaze when he first meets her to work from.
Because the relationship is seen through the eyes of Thorkild, he is also the only truly developed character. I would’ve liked the Baroness to have had a more amplified presence, and to have seen some sort of change in Benedicte. Some of the comic lines could have been honed a little better, meaning that there wouldn’t have been several delays of audience reaction; otherwise for the most part the delivery of the text was sound.
In all honesty, I think the main reason I left the theatre quite happy was because I’d made an acquaintance before the show started, entirely by accident. It is, however, an interesting narrative. I just wish I could speak Danish, and then I could see it in it’s original format.