Ibsen, The Rose Theatre Kingston-upon Thames
As I took my seat in the pit in anticipation for the performance the first thing that struck me was the stage. It seemed to me that the stage had a clear division between the house and the garden with the flowers. This I soon realised was deliberate as the entire play revolves around the division of one family.
For those who are not familiar with the play it is about a husband (Dr Wangel), his wife (Ellida) and Dr Wangel’s children by his first wife. Ellida has a mysterious past and has become bored and claustrophobic. Then she remembers a promise she made to a man ten years ago. Already, high tension between the youngest daughter and Ellida rise and the eldest daughter seeks a way to escape the monotony of island life via her ex-teacher. Tensions grow even higher as Ellida’s long lost love arrives at the island and she must make a drastic choice…
Joely Richardson is perfect for the role of Ellida as her lean figure suits the aesthetic, starved life-style of Ellida. Richardson acts very well really capturing the frustrated and slightly mad air to her character. The rest of the acting is solid with an exceptionally good performance from the younger daughter.
The intricate staging of the house and the final scene was instrumental in capturing the air of a division between the daughters and Ellida with the father stuck in the middle and worked very well and was effectively used.
Two major themes in the play are free will and possibly feminism. It is about whether Ellida can choose her husband or whether the man responsible for her must choose her husband. At the time the play was written women were protesting around the world for the right to vote which means that the play has a more significant and extreme effect than it does to a modern audience. This is why I believe that to thoroughly understand a play one must put it into historical context.
**** Stars- Good Play
picture from http://culturecritic.co.uk