Little Eyolf at the Almeida Theatre
The Almeida plays host to Richard Eyre’s latest offering, Little Eyolf, adapted from the Norwegian play by Henrik Ibsen. Every decade or so, Little Eyolf makes it to London in some form, but Eyre’s version is probably worth seeing while it’s around. It’s easy to like this play, though, admittedly, difficult to love it. The acting is mostly world-class, with the female performers stealing the show; the dialogue and characters are well done but not perfect and the plot is moving but uneasy.
Little Eyolf manages to be about everything and nothing at the same time. Just some of the topics conveyed include marriage, tragedy, love, isolation, grief and change. In summary, perhaps it is about life. A tremendous amount of life is inflicted upon a married couple in a relatively short period of time and argument upon argument unfolds as they try to come to terms with certain events and move forward. Nothing is wrapped up into a single neat theme, rather the complexity of life shines through beautifully. It’s all very uncomfortable, particularly when viewed in the intimacy of this small setting, but it is certainly gripping.
Richard Eyre has previously directed two other Ibsen adaptations for the Almeida: Hedda Gabler (2005) and Ghosts (2013), both of which went on to the West End and scooped up a number of awards between them. While it is not impossible to imagine Little Eyolf following the same path, the production does have its imperfections.
At times, the script feels somewhat unfinished or rushed. A series of wonderful lines are followed by a piece of dialogue that feels fake and forced, and pulls one out of the moment. The male characters, too, though performed well, seem to be mere caricatures compared with the depth and realism of the women in the story.
Little Eyolf is a powerful yet tremendously sad play. The spectacular performances by the likes of Lydia Leonard and Eve Ponsonby are worth the admission alone, but there are aspects of the production that feel like they still need work.
Little Eyolf is on at the Almeida Theatre from 19th November 2015 until 9th January 2016, for further information or to book visit here.