by Henrik Ibsen adapted by Richard Eyre from a literal translation by Anne and Karin Bamborough.
Almeida Theatre Almeida Street N1 1TA To 9 January 2016.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm 1 Jan 5pm Mat Wed, Sat & 28 Dec 2.30pm.
no performance 24-26, 31 Dec.
Audio-described 12 Dec 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 12.45pm), 22 Dec (+ Touch Tour 6pm).
Captioned 11 Dec.
Post-show Discussion 21 Dec.
Runs 1hr 25min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7359 4404.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 27 November.
Stripped-pine clarity and bareness in Islington Ibsen.
A short play for Henrik Ibsen, Little Eyolf (1894) has been short on productions too. A playwright who shows the past crashing down on present-day guilt, Ibsen famously unveils his characters’ pasts with Salome-like delicacy, detailing their impact on characters’ lives.
Yet in Eyolf, life is missing. The play resembles a DIY Ibsen-Drama kit, the skeleton of guilt, repression and suffering needing to be fleshed-out to create characters to fit a playwright’s thesis. Eyolf has plenty of past, but its present barely draws breath.
Alfred Allmers is another of Ibsen’s failed males. From Brand and Peer Gynt, their protagonists’ lives blind alleys of moral austerity or indulgence, through the social tragedies where male authority rests on occupation – business, banking or clergy – to the idealists who miss the point, they are a sorry lot.
Allmers is the identikit Ibsen male. Failing even to begin writing his book on Human Happiness (in Hedda Gabler, at least Ejlert Løvborg had managed a draft of his magnum opus before abandoning it), Alfred returns from the mountains declaring that, instead, he’ll dedicate his life to ensuring his son undertake the great work.
But Eyolf, limping on his crushed leg, dies while unsupervised. Alfred and his wife Rita’s guilt over his injuries and death and her jealousy of Eyolf for absorbing her husband’s love contrasts a different awkward relationship between Alfred’s sister and the engineer Borgheim.
This complex guilt needs the clarity of Richard Eyre’s production. But not the stripped-pine minimalism that plays neuroses more than characters. Only Lydia Leonard’s Rita and Eileen Walsh’s Pied Piper-like Rat Woman, instinctively sensing that guilt over Eyolf gnaws at the Allmers, move beyond this.
Tim Hatley’s distant mountain scenery soon loses the setting sun of Peter Mumford’s lighting to become a black land-mass. Though even that seems colourful beside the fastidious yet bloodless action in this minimalist staging.
Ibsen’s regular emotional temperature-gauge, the lighting of a lamp, is only used near the end, where Rita’s intention to help impoverished local children in place of Eyolf forms a project it’s hard to think Ibsen’s shrewd mind meant be taken seriously.
Alfred Allmers: Jolyon Coy.
Bjarne Borgheim: Sam Hazeldine.
Rita Allmers: Lydia Leonard.
Rita Allmers: Eve Ponsonby.
Woman: Eileen Walsh.
Eyolf Allmers: Adam Greaves-Neal/Tom Hibberd/Billy Marlow.
Director: Richard Eyre.
Designer: Tim Hatley.
Lighting: Peter Mumford.
Sound: John Leonard.
Video: Jon Driscoll.
Assistant director: Sam Joyce.