by Henrik Ibsen translated by Charles Archer adapted by Mark Ewbank.
Barons Court Theatre 28a Comeragh Road W14 9HP To 26 October 2013.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 October.
Uneven, but intriguing rare revival that could use a new translation.
Perhaps it’s comforting to know Europe was quarrelling centuries ago, when Scandinavian countries which had banded against German mercantile power split their alliance.
In 1528, with Sweden asserting itself, Norway’s most powerful woman, the widow Inger Gyldenlove, decides whom to support – a decision that would have resonated with Henrik Ibsen’s 1854 audiences, since relations between the countries had continued tense.
Not that there were many audiences. In his mid-twenties, Ibsen was still taking any theatre work he could get and his plays were making no mark.
Fru Inger til Østeraad isn’t the earliest of these the London Fringe has revived;St John’s Eve, seen last year at Jermyn Street Theatre, comes from 1852. That’s’ a comedy; while Lady Inger is historical tragedy – or, as director Mark Ewbank believes, Ibsen’s “tongue-in-cheek take” on romantic historical tragedy. If so, the young writer was taking-on a genre before he had a reputation.
And there’s little sense of it in Ewbank’s production for Jump Cut Productions, running a week at Barons Court. For a long time there’s little sense of the writer to come. Then, as Inger plots revenge on Swedish emissary Nils Lykke, while her second daughter falls for him, unaware he’d caused her sister’s death, and there’s a fatal confusion between the identity of two young men, leading to Inger’s sense of triumph at her moment of downfall, there are glimpses of Ibsen women to come.
Nora Helmer fearing she will morally contaminate her children, Helena Alving switching between euthanasia and desire to keep her son, Hedda Tesman, with her loathing of pregnancy keeping a calm surface as she goes to shoot herself – mothers and children are heralded here as central for Ibsen.
Though acting is uneven, Che Watson is a calculating alpha male Lykke, smoothly charming as his eyes darting observantly, while Georgina Pickul’s Inger moves from confusion to thrilling command. What hampers everyone is the 1885 translation which, despite adaptation by the director overloads the actors with words and the kind of ‘importance’ with which translations used to burden historical characters. The company, and Ibsen, deserve better.
Lady Inger Gyldenlove: Georgina Pickul.
Nils Lykke: Che Watson.
Elina Gyldenlove: Emma Cohen.
Olaf Skaktavl: Callum Lewin.
Nils Stennson: Joe Lewis.
Bjorn: Samuel Haughton.
Jens Bielke/Einar Huk: Will Timbers.
Finn: Mark Ewbank.
Director: Mark Ewbank.