Almeida Theatre (London)
By Gustavo Subero
The problem with writing reviews once the official reviews have been published is that any that differs (greatly or otherwise) from the official versions seem to enjoy less validity about the play in question. Perhaps, it is the fact that after the more-than-amazing Greek season at the Almeida, it was always going to be hard to continue with such a successful string. However, Richard Eyre’s version of Ibsen’s Little Eyolf felt tired borderline bore-some. It was like watching a production of a play that had been staged for years with the very same cast and at a point when they all had stopped believing in both the play and the characters.
It is undeniable that the play is beautifully staged by Tim Hatley who does a great job recreating the jetty where the whole action develops, while the changes in mood are crafted with great delicacy through the light design by Peter Munford. By the same token Lidia Leonard’s Rita is full of intensity and has a clear raw vulnerability that emphasizes her dilemma as a woman torn between her maternal instincts and her sexual desires and, subsequently, her grieving for her lost son and the way to reconcile herself to the man she sees as both the cause and the result of her inner demons.
However, the same cannot be said of the rest of the cast. Although Eileen Walsh is full of witty and, at the same time, brings an air of premonition and wickedly humour to her role as the Old Woman, her role is too short to provide a respite to the rest of the cast. Sadly, the rest of the performances are, at its best, just bland. It is as, somehow, the performers had stopped believing in their roles altogether. Jolyon Coy shows a particularly bland performance as Alfred and, it is not that the audience cannot believe he has no desire for the beautiful and sexy Rita, but the fact the he reacts with equal blandness to the death of his own son. At no point we see a man torn by either guilt or grief. He remains impassible and unmoved by both a wife who yearns his physical affection and a son that has just encountered a tragic death. Equally bland is his sister Asta, played by Eve Ponsonby, who appears rather nonchalant about the plight of both her brother and sister-in-law, or even her own as she seems to struggle with her own feelings for the ruggedly handsome Bjarne (Sam Hazeldine).
In all fairness this wasn’t a terrible stage adaptation of Ibsen’s work; yet I sadly left the theatre unmoved and unchallenged by a play that, in its heyday, was paramount in relation to women’s cry for equality and the demarginalisation of female identity outside the domestic realm. One can only hope that I just happen to visit the theatre on a particular bad day and that, other performances, have really brought to the forefront the essence of Ibsen’s masterpiece.
CAST & CREATIVES
Adapted and directed by Richard Eyre
Design Tim Hatley
Light Peter Mumford
Sound John Leonard
Video Jon Driscoll
Casting Cara Beckinsale CDG
Assistant Direction Sara Joyce