Welcome to Manchester Confidential
Reset Password
The Confidential websites will be undergoing routine updates. This may cause the sites to go offline. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience.

You are here: Manchester ConfidentialEntertainment & SportTheatre & Comedy.

The Lady from the Sea, Royal Exchange, review

Lucy Tomlinson enjoys ‘love, responsibility and self-determination'

Written by . Published on October 20th 2010.


The Lady from the Sea, Royal Exchange, review

“We have been the joyous children of summer for weeks and months now. It's hard to reconcile yourself to the dark days.”

Then there is sensible, insightful Bolette (Sara Vickers). She doesn’t want to be daddy’s little helper, or the artist’s angel, or the rich man’s trophy wife, yet it seems she must become one of them. The fact that her old (both in years and as in her former) teacher’s strangely large hands get progressively sweaty at the prospect doesn’t seem to creep anyone out too much.

So says the character of Ballestrad from the Royal Exchange’s new production of one of Ibsen’s less well-known plays, The Lady from the Sea.

And while we haven’t been suffering from a surfeit of hot summer days, the transition from light to dark is still all too familiar. In fact the outer surroundings of late summer activities, swimming and boating, dancing and flag raising, make this tale of sexual obsession, mental illness and power struggles in relationships all the more poignant.

Set in the Norwegian fjords, living a sluggish half life between sea and mountains, Ellida (Neve McIntosh), the ‘Lady’ of the title, broods over her past love, despite having settled into a comfortable marriage of convenience with Doctor Wangel (Reece Dinsdale), who, whilst not being the sharpest sandwich in the smorgasbord, is almost saintly in his attempts to understand his wife’s all-too-literal weltschmerz.

So saintly in fact, he has invited Arnholm (Jonathan Keeble), whom he believes to be the object of her yearnings to come and cheer her up. Very progressive. In fact she gave him the swerve years ago and his eye has wandered further afield.

It is this tangled net of rejections and misunderstandings that forms the plots and sub-plots of the play as Ibsen contrasts the elemental pull of emotional life (the sea) with the tamer currents of domesticity (nicely represented by a pond).

Ellida is straight down the line emotional, which can make her positively histrionic compared to the more modern and knowing tone of her castmates. Poor tragic wannabe artist Lyngstrand (Samuel Collings) stoically pretends he isn’t about to be carried off by the usual Victorian malady of a chesty cough, making Ellida seem like a bit of a moaner. The really vivid character of Hilde (Catrin Stewart), a little Norwegian Wednesday Addams in the making, finds Lyngstrand’s imminent death terribly exciting.

Then there is sensible, insightful Bolette (Sara Vickers). She doesn’t want to be daddy’s little helper, or the artist’s angel, or the rich man’s trophy wife, yet it seems she must become one of them. The fact that her old (both in years and as in her former) teacher’s strangely large hands get progressively sweaty at the prospect doesn’t seem to creep anyone out too much.

The Stranger (Bill Ward), nominally bad-boy sexy sailor with blood on his hands and inexplicably compelling eyes, turns up to offer a couple of lines about how she belongs to him and so on. So far, so Twilight. Ellida mithers around about following her inner self while really deciding which bloke is the hottest prospect, while Wangel takes it upon himself to battle the stranger for possession of her soul.

From a feminist perspective, the best thing Ellida could have done would have been to run off with Hilde and start her own bio-organic deli in Oslo. But this is the 1890s after all, and she does a double switch by staying with the man who offers her freedom with no strings attached.

Despite this, the themes of love, responsibility and self-determination in the relationships we form with others are eternal, and beautifully explored by David Eldridge's adaptation.

This is a recommended and very elegant Royal Exchange production.

The Lady from the Sea is at the Royal Exchange until 6 November. 0161 833 9833.

Like what you see? Enter your email to sign up for our newsletters which are chock-a-block with more great reviews, news, deals and savings.

To post this comment, you need to login.Please complete your login information.
OR CREATE AN ACCOUNT HERE..
Or you can login using Facebook.

Latest Rants

Anonymous

Believe me MONOPRIX more ASDA than Tesco....

 Read more
Anonymous

What are 'richest diary pastures'?

 Read more
Chris

Saw it a few years ago at the Opera House with Marcus Brigstocke as Arthur. Really good, silly fun.…

 Read more
David Smith

Crackerjack................whooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Strong current reference there.

 Read more

Explore The Site

© Mark Garner t/a Confidential Direct 2017

Privacy | Careers | Website by: Planet Code | SEO by The eWord