by Henrik Ibsen translated by Stephen Unwin.
English Touring Theatre Tour to 7 December 2013.
Runs: 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 October at Oxford Playhouse.
Clarity and detail make a gripping production.
This distinctive revival hurtles along while giving space to the steady unfolding of truths concealed for years. Director Stephen Unwin and his cast make each character’s reactions detailed and clear.
The self-interested Engstrand’s hearty confidence seeks to manipulate his supposed daughter Regina into leaving her servant’s job with Mrs Alving to return home with him. And Florence Hall’s brightly opportunistic Regina uses flattery to seek work in Pastor Manders’ house. These two, with no conscience, are the survivors.
When Regina comes close Patrick Drury’s Manders flinches in puritanical inflexibility. Inflexible also in mind, this Manders, thankfully, avoids raising laughter with his parade of 19th-century moral views.
His authority figure slumps at the prospect of public criticism. When Engstrand, who twists the more educated man round any digit he wishes, offers to prevent this Manders compromises on principle, quietly agreeing to finance his dubious hostel project; then within moments recovers his arrogant poise, calling for Engstrand to follow as he arrogantly strides from the Alving house.
Drury sits at a table with Kelly Hunter’s Helena Alving as they discuss the past; concentration gives the scene its pulse. Later, as matters come to a head, Unwin shows intensely how her life is falling apart. Manders has condemned her morally, Regina personally – for having kept the young woman unaware of her true status – while Engstrand’s used her front-room to plan his dubious hostel.
And, while the destruction of the new orphanage becomes a clearing away of the dark past, her beloved son Osvald’s rejection and dissolution become unbearable. After keeping control of his secret, Quartley’s Osvald suddenly drops into slack-featured vacancy.
It’s here the formerly controlled Helena dashes near-hysterically round the stage as the misty mountainside of Simon Higlett’s set is illuminated by the rising sun in Paul Pyant’s lighting, its bright intensity contrasting the darkness falling in Osvald’s crumbling mind.
Finally, this is the tragedy of Hunter’s Mrs Alving, the understanding and surface calm of her black, tight-laced figure abandoned as she flings herself in desperate indecision while her hopes for her son’s future are consumed by the terrible past.
Regina: Florence Hall.
Engstrand: Pip Donaghy.
Pastor Manders: Patrick Drury.
Mrs Alving: Kelly Hunter.
Osvald: Mark Quartley.
Director: Stephen Unwin.
Designer: Simon Higlett.
Lighting: Paul Pyant.
Composer: Corin Buckeridge.
Dialect coach: Yvonne Morley.
Hair: Matt George for The Big Wig Company.
Dramaturg: Sue Prideaux.
Assistant director: Kim Pearce.
21-26 Oct Tue-Thu; Sat 7.30pm Fri 8pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1pm) Oxford Playhouse 01865 305305 www.oxfordplayhouse.com
5-9 Nov Tue-Thu 7.45pm; Fri, Sat 8pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford 01483 440000 www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk
12-16 Nov 7.30pm Mat Thu 2pm Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm & 7.30pm Captioned Sat 2.30pm York Theatre Royal 01904 623568 www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk
19-23 Nov 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm Captioned Wed Watford Palace Theatre 01923 225671 www.watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk
26-30 Nov 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Malvern Festival Theatre 01684 892277 www.malvern-theatres.co.uk
3-7 Dec 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Captioned Wed 7.45pm Theatre Royal Brighton 0844 871 7650 www.atgtickets.com/brighton