by Henrik Ibsen adapted by Andy Barrett.

Nottingham Playhouse Wellington Circus NG1 5AF To 1 June 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm no evening performance 1 June Sun 4pm Mat 28 May 2.30pm 31 May, 1 June 1.30pm.
Audio-described 25 May, 28 May 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 25 May.
Post-show Discussion 24 May.
Runs 2hr30min One interval.

TICKETS: 0115 941 9419.
Review: Alan Geary: 17th May 2011.

Striking curiosity value plus an enjoyable night out. Go see.
The first of Ibsen’s naturalistic plays is worth seeing for at least two reasons. It has a striking curiosity value, insofar as this production by Nottingham Playhouse Artistic Director Giles Croft is, remarkably, its first professional outing in this country. More importantly of course, Andy Barrett’s adaptation of the (we’re reliably informed unwieldy) 1869 original makes an enjoyable night out in its own right.

Most of the attack in this play is directed at progressive politics. We’re presented with the rise and fall of a good-looking but content-free political opportunist with no principles, fewer policies, and even fewer scruples – contemporary figures might spring to mind. But entrenched conservatism doesn’t get off scot-free either.

Since it’s mostly done with humour, this is satire sometimes in the spirit of Yes Minister: but particularly right at the end, when Stensgard is being mechanically laughed out of town by the rest of the cast, the sinister quality of the play surfaces.

Pre-interval you need to concentrate; the names fall fast but insufficiently thickly for assimilation, and a couple of doublings up are initially confusing. After the break, as the plot develops, you can sit back and watch the best bits.

Sam Callis is good as Stensgard, a celebrity type, self-regarding and vain with not a lot behind the ears. Robin Kingsland gets Monsen, the ill-bred new money man in a brown suit, dead right. David Acton (Lundestad), Philip Bretherton (Chamberlain Bratsberg) and others are also effective. Jon Rumney as Daniel Heire, the hyperactive old man, falls into stage caricature – all that bandy-legged hobbling off stage and cheery hand-waving.

More negatives. It might be Barrett’s blue pencil work, but the full realisation that Stensgard is bogus comes too abruptly in his climb. And it doesn’t require incongruously poppy, right-on background music to persuade us of the evening’s contemporary relevance: that much is obvious.

The League of Youth isn’t itself a masterpiece. But given the textual and thematic parallels with, most directly, the later Doll’s House and Ghosts, it points forward to some of Ibsen’s best plays, and therefore to some of the greatest in European theatre.

Lundestad: David Acton.
Dr Fjeldbo: Russell Bentley.
Chamberlain Bratsberg: Philip Bretherton.
Stensgard: Sam Callis.
Thora Bratsberg: Bridie Higson.
Aslaksen: Mark Jardine.
Monsen: Robin Kingsland.
Erik Bratsberg/Bastian Monsen: Chris Nayak.
Daniel Heire: Jon Rumney.
Madam Rundholme: Debra Stewart.
Selma Bratsberg/Ragna Monsen: Victoria Yeates.

Director: Giles Croft.
Designer: Dawn Allsopp.
Lighting: Alexandra Stafford.
Sound/Composer Designer: Matthew Bugg.

2011-05-23 01:30:31

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