Fanny and Alexander

Previewed 21 February 2018, Opened 1 March 2018, Closed 14 April 2018 at the Old Vic Theatre

A major stage adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander in London starring Penelope Wilton and Michael Pennington

Sweden in the 1900s. Sister and brother, Fanny and Alexander's world is suddently turned upside down when their widowed mother remarries the iron-willed local bishop. As creative freedom and rigid orthodoxy clash, a war ensues between imagination and austerity in this magical study of childhood, family and love.

Please note: Recommended for ages 16 and above.

The cast features Penelope Wilton as 'Helena Ekdahl' and Michael Pennington as 'Isak Jacobi' with Jonathan Slinger as 'Gustav Adolf Ekdahl', Catherine Walker as 'Emilie Ekdahl', Kevin Doyle as 'Bishop Edvard Vergérus', Thomas Arnold as 'Carl Ekdahl / Mr. Landhal', Lolita Chakrabarti as 'Alma Ekdahl / Henrietta Vergérus', Karina Fernandez as 'Lydia Ekdahl / Justina', Annie Firbank as 'Vega / Blenda Vergérus', Matt Gavan as 'Michael Bergman / Aron Retzinsky', Gloria Obianyo as 'Petra Ekdahl / Pauline / Ismael Retzinsky', Vivian Oparah as 'Maj', Sargon Yelda as 'Oscar Ekdahl', Tim Lewis, Gary MacKay and Hannah James Scott. The title role of 'Fanny' is played by either Zaris Angel Hator, Amy Jayne, Molly Shenker or Katie Simons. The title role of 'Alexander' is played by either Guillermo Bedward, Kit Connor, Jack Falk or Misha Handley. Directed by Max Webster, with Hannah Banister (Children), movement by Toby Sedgwick, set by Tom Pye, costumes by Laura Hopkins, illusions by Ben Hart, lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Alex Baranowski and sound by Tom Gibbons. Adapted for the stage by Stephen Beresford from the film by Ingmar Bergman.

Ingmar Bergman's 1982 film Fanny and Alexander won four Oscars, including for 'Best Foreign Language Film' and is presented by the Old Vic Theatre to mark the 100-year anniversary of Ingmar Bergman's birth.

When this production opened here at the Old Vic Theatre in March 2018, Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail highlighted how "Max Webster’s production has tableaux to ravish the eye and enough quirks to keep the clock ticking along so the evening’s three-and-a-half hours (or more) seldom seem to lag... The ensemble delivers high-grade character acting." Paul Taylor in the i newspaper said that "Stephen Beresford has scripted a deft three-and-half-hour stage adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's semi-autobiographical family saga... What's hard for a stage version to capture is the child's-eyeview of the adult world that is so brilliantly conveyed through close-ups and point-of-view shots in the film... The overwhelming impression, though, is that this is a feast of show." Neil Norman in the Daily Express described how "there are some banal and even boring scenes which prevent the production from achieving greatness. But beautiful performances compensate for the occasional lacklustre sequences." Michael Billington in the Guardian comment that, "while Stephen Beresford’s adaptation is faithful and Max Webster’s 210-minute production gallops along and fields especially strong performances from Penelope Wilton and Michael Pennington, it mostly lacks the nightmare intensity of the film and the feeling that we are sharing a child’s vision of the adult world... it only fleetingly captures the magic of the original movie." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph wrote that "it's determined to be brisk, fluid, never-boring. Yet that's the problem, in a way... what you get in the Bergman original is an intense quality of lingering observation that lends the entire enterprise a quality of mystery and wonder. To compare the beauty of the original with the visuals here is like comparing a rainbow with an iridescent soap-bubble." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard said that, "unlike the film, Stephen Beresford's interpretation rarely gives us a sense of seeing through a child's eyes. But it does become increasingly sinister as features of Alexander's inner life burst from within him... It's when Penelope Wilton is at the heart of the action that this show gets closest to the expansiveness and enchantment of its famous source material." Ann Treneman in the Times thought that "this play has much going for it. It's a fairytale story. The cast is good... The set, by Tom Pye, is eye-catching, particularly the austere bishop's quarters. But it is far too uneven."

Penelope Wilton's West End stage credits include the role of 'Irmgard' in Jonathan Church's production of Mark Hayhurst's Taken at Midnight at the Haymarket Theatre in 2015; the role of 'Gertrude', opposite Jude Law as 'Hamlet', in Kenneth Branagh's production of Shakespeare's Hamlet at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2009; the role of 'Ranyeskaya' in Adrian Noble's revival of Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre) in 1996; the role of 'Hester Collyer' in Karel Reisz's revival of Terrence Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea at the Apollo Theatre in 1993; and the role of 'Vita Sackville-West' in Eileen Atkins' play Vita and Virginia at the Ambassadors Theatre in 1993.

Michael Pennington's London theatre credits include the role of 'Antigonus' in Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh's revival of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale at the Garrick Theatre in 2015; the role of 'Wilhelm Furtwängler' in Philip Franks' revival of Ronald Harwood's Taking Sides at the Duchess Theatre in 2009; the role of 'Richard Strauss' in Philip Franks' production of Ronald Harwood's Collaboration at the Duchess Theatre in 2009; the role of 'Nandor' in Janet Suzman's revival of Ferenc Molnar's The Guardsman at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre) in 2000; the role of 'Major Steve Arnold' in Harold Pinter's production of Ronald Harwood's Taking Sides at the Criterion Theatre in 1995; and the role of 'Henry' in Peter Wood's production of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing at the Strand Theatre (now Novello Theatre) in 1984.

"Oft caricatured as a purveyor of Nordic gloom, Ingmar Bergman made several life-affirming comedies, none more so than this 1982 semi-autobiographical portrait of an acting dynasty seen through the eyes of the titular children. Stephen Beresford's adaptation is clunky. It'd be wrong to expect him to recreate Bergman's lavish period interiors or the play of light and shadows so fundamental to his art, but he should have done more than simply fillet the film for key episodes, thereby failing to create a distinctive theatrical rhythm. He's at his best in the actors' rehearsal scenes, in which Penelope Wilton is gloriously funny... Max Webster's production contains fine performances from Michael Pennington as a benign Jewish shopkeeper, Kevin Doyle as a repressed and repressive bishop, Jonathan Slinger as a philandering restaurateur, along with a remarkably assured one from Guillermo Bedward as Alexander at the performance I saw." The Sunday Express

"Max Webster's production starring Penelope Wilton as a deliciously waspish matriarch clocks in at three and a half hours. Here's the thing though: the time flies by. Bergman's film is a frost-tipped family saga that follows the emotional and existential crisis of the Ekdahl clan - theatre practitioners by trade. In a series of noisy, bustling, festive scenes, often arranged around a long table loaded with food, the family drink, play, make merry and have affairs. Everything changes when Oscar, Wilton's son and the director of the family theatre company, dies. His widow Emilie fatefully falls in love with the local fiercely Calvinist bishop and takes her children Fanny and Alexander with her to the forbidding castle he shares with his joyless sister and invalid aunt. No more swish red curtains and sumptuous feasts: now the stage is soaked in bleak white light and the only food is cabbage soup. If this sounds like a particularly dark fairy tale then that's deliberate. Bergman's film is fascinated by the role stories play in creating a shape for and a refuge from reality. At its heart is the precocious fantasist Alexander who is haunted by the Grim Reaper and whose rebellious imagination brings out in the God-tormented bishop a punitive asceticism. Webster's production can't match Bergman's cinematic depiction of an intensely imagined world informed by an operatic sense of dread but it has a theatrical flair of its own and a fierce feel for the story's human dramas. I was gripped." The Metro

"What unfolds is a lovable portrait of a warm-hearted and squabbling tribe of extrovert, extravagant misfits, the Ekdahls, in the Swedish town of Uppsala in the early 20th century... The leisurely and expansive pace of much of the play may not be to every taste, but it is very much a part of its meaning... The director, Max Webster, also captures the strange magic and prickly spookiness of the childhood imagination... Kevin Doyle is riveting as the bishop, in many ways rather repugnant, especially as his punishments and confinements of Alexander and his sister, Fanny, become ever harsher and more sinister... At the head of the family is the matriarch herself, Mrs Helena Ekdahl — Penelope Wilton on majestic form. With comic timing and magnificent, sometimes Lady Bracknell-ish delivery, both clipped and grandiose, she seems consistently wise amid all the human chaos... A memoir of childhood that also slyly echoes Hamlet, replayed in turn-of-the-century Sweden to thrilling and moving effect, it's a richly colourful and assured recreation, and a brave, unquestionable triumph for the Old Vic." The Sunday Times

Fanny and Alexander in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 21 February 2018, opened on 1 March 2018 and closed on 14 April 2018