by Henrik Ibsen new version by David Harrower.

Young Vic 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ To 8 June 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm no performance 27 May Mat Sat & 15, 22 May 2.30pm.
Audio-described 8 June 7.30pm.
Captioned 4 June.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 February.

Vivid production is the enemy of realism.
We sit in rows facing a stage. This is, after all, a theatre. But it feels unusual. Partly from the unsubtle floodlights. But mainly the separate chairs, more like a public hall than a theatre. Smart seats though; someone has money to spend. Then there’s the spa-town’s shiny logo; an overflowing teardrop dominating the landscape.

And we face a platform. The stage only emerges when an assertive curtain’s raised on the gaudy patterns of Miriam Buether’s room setting. It remains an obvious stage, with artificially gaudy décor, including the view of a sparkling fjord afforded by a huge side-window. Visitors are seen approaching through this window before appearing, not through a door, but round the edge of the set.

Director Richard Jones combines Henrik Ibsen’s five acts into continuous action. Costumes discreetly modernise matters, suiting Charlotte Randle’s beautifully played Catherine Stockmann, modern body language and speech cadences subtly giving life to a character who can be a mere background figure mediating between her impulsive doctor husband, and his sibling rival Peter – old and sweatingly out-of condition amid the youthful casting in Darrell D’Silva’s detailed performance, a conservative mayor whose political intrigue outfoxes his brother’s dangerous truth.

As Stockmann’s daughter Beatrice Walker has a youthful openness edging towards the exaggerated realism of the set. Contrastingly, David Sibley’s old backwoodsman is harder-placed in a modern setting. David Harrower’s version cuts back on Morten’s mockery of Doctor Stockmann; in Ibsen’s time it was possible to believe such a man would think invisible pollutants a fantasy.

But all’s well enough till the public meeting, which Harrower and Jones make the high-point of contemporary relevance, showing democratic procedures used to stifle democracy. But extending Stockmann’s tirade further unbalances the play. Especially when, he ends-up adopting a crucifixion-like posture against the wall where he’d displayed his scientific evidence.

This isn’t the first time Stockmann has toppled from conviction to demagogy, but despite Nick Fletcher’s skilful change from cheerful reason to obsessive insistence, it becomes part of a simplified approach that means we end up sitting not so much in a theatre as a lecture-hall.

Aslaksen: Niall Ashdown.
Horster: Adam Best.
Hovstad: Bryan Dick.
Mayor: Darrell D’Silva.
Stockmann: Nick Fletcher.
Billing: Joel Fry.
Mrs Stockmann: Charlotte Randle.
Morten Kiil: David Sibley.
Petra: Beatrice Walker.
Eilif: Reece Donn/Domenico Frescofiore.
Morten: Sasha Gray/Kai Hill.

Director: Richard Jones.
Designer: Miriam Buether.
Lighting: Mimi Jordan Sherin.
Sound/Music: David Sawer.

2013-05-15 15:00:20

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