So there I was in the Almeida theatre after a day spent squinting into a microfilm reader researching my family history. On the stage Ibsen's ineffectual hero Johannes Rosmer explains why he's unsuited to a useful career in politics; he's busy writing up his family history. Bingo! Art imitates life. Unfortunately, Rosmersholm goes on for nearly three hours, the plot has gaping holes, the characters and their motivations don't convince, at least not in this production, and there's a lot of talk and no action until the doomed couple jump into the millrace at the end. Ibsen's reputation rests on great plays such as A Doll's House and Hedda Gabler, and this one just isn't in the same class. Rosmer is an aristocrat toying with the idea of political commitment against the background of sharp tension between liberals and conservatives in 1880s Norway. He manages to turn his back on the conservatives, represented by his stuffy old friend Doctor Kroll, while being repelled by the human failings of the liberals, represented by the unscrupulous editor Mortensgaard and his former teacher Brendel, a human wreck who borrows his overcoat and pawns it for drink. However the political background never comes to life and Rosmer never seems to face a real choice. He's a pastor who has lost his faith in God and left the church, but for some implausible reason his apostasy seems not to be public knowledge. Was he a pastor without a flock? The core of the play is his relationship with Rebecca West, the young woman who entered his household as companion to his invalid wife before her suicide and has stayed on as his housekeeper. Outsiders such as Kroll, the dead wife's brother, see the relationship as improper, but to a modern audience it just looks improbably chaste. Finally Rosmer and Miss West discover they have been in love with each other all along and after an interminable fourth act, commit suicide offstage. Somewhere in this play with its melodramatic ending there's a very modern drama struggling to come out about two people who can't acknowledge their true feelings; when they do, it's too late and their bout of honesty is fatal to their relationship. Unfortunately, that isn't the play that Ibsen wrote. It seems to me he couldn't quite make up his mind what combination of social pressures and personal flaws should lead to the final resolution of the play, so there are a lot of false trails and elements that turn out to be irrelevant, such as the doubt over Rebecca's parentage. This production has a tip-top trio of actors in the main roles -- Helen McCrory, Paul Hilton and Malcolm Sinclair, but I still felt the casting was flawed, and so was the direction by Anthony Page, one of the Grand Old Men of British theatre, who began his career in the 1950s. McCrory is a wonderful actress whom I've seen give dazzling performances at the Donmar in Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya; but here there are long passages when her voice sinks to an intimate near-whisper and she's inaudible at the back of the stalls. My instinct is to blame not the actress but the director. Sinclair, recently seen as the father in Dealer's Choice, is very good as Kroll, but I can't imagine this pompous character and Rosmer, played by Hilton as something of a long-haired hippy, ever being friends. Hilton excelled in The Wild Duck a couple of years ago at the Donmar, but here he seems miscast as a hereditary aristocrat. And the relationship between Rosmer and Rebecca just doesn't seem plausible; both of them seem far too modern in their behaviour to convey the unresolved sexual tension of a couple doomed by class barriers, guilt and social inhibitions. We don't get any real sense of what is keeping them apart. Page's approach to the play can be described as the kind of respectful mainstream naturalism of which Ibsen would have approved, but I can't help feeling that there may be a better method. Recent successful Ibsen productions in the London -- Richard Eyre's Hedda Gabler, Michael Grandage's The Wild Duck and Marianne Elliott's The Pillars of Society -- have all succeeded by using a bolder, less naturalistic style.