Little Eyolf*** (Almeida Theatre)

Posted: December 9, 2015 in Theatre
© John Angerson Campaign for Almeida theatre, London. Design by Magpie Studio Licence to use expires September 2018

© John Angerson

When adapting and directing the plays of Henrik Ibsen, Richard Eyre’s “less is more” approach has huge advantages, but some drawbacks. His multi-award winning production of Ghosts, seen here two years ago, created a cauldron of intense passions to contrast with the icy Norwegian setting, but there were hints that the play’s swift progression was putting strains on its credibility. On this occasion, there is a similar setting, on the coast near to the Fjords and we witness similar tensions of a family tearing itself apart, but the strains are more pronounced.  The chief protagonists are Alfred (Jolyon Coy) and Rita (Lydia Leonard), parents of the crippled boy Eyolf, Alfred’s sister Asta (Eve Ponsonby) and her suitor Bjarne (Sam Hazeldine). Ibsen takes a scalpel to a family in which a child has intruded on the relationship between husband and wife in a marriage already threatened by the closeness of brother to sister. The drama is absorbing and, thanks to beautiful, precise acting, occasionally thrilling and no-one should complain at the 80 minutes (without interval) running time. Except that Ibsen shows us relationships that are constantly shifting and, in this shortened version, we struggle to comprehend how characters have moved from A to B quite so quickly. The problem lies under the surface from early on, but it culminates in a final scene that is barely credible.

Performance date: 7 December 2015

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