The Lady from the Sea at the Donmar Warehouse
The Donmar Warehouse hosts a fine new version of Henrik Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea, highlighting the divide between men and women at a particularly relevant time.
Of course, this divide is always particularly relevant. Ibsen originally wrote this play in 1888 while this adaptation feels natural set in the 1950s, and yet the gender politics are familiar to society today. Many will argue that, due to Hollywood stories in the news and the #MeToo movement on social media, the timing of this production is especially significant. But isn’t it always important to tell this story?
Elinor Cook’s reimagining sees The Lady from the Sea set in the Caribbean (instead of Norway), a small, enclosed paradise. The tale is centred around Ellida, about how she feels trapped and her desire for freedom, particularly from the ownership dynamic of her marriage. At the same time, similar themes are explored with the other characters. Ellida’s step-daughter Bolette, a very bright young woman who longs to get out in the world and further her education, is courted by men who would rather keep her.
However, it does feel like the adaptation is letting the audience off a little lightly. By being set in the 1950s, it allows the viewer to distance themselves from what Ibsen called “the modern tragedy”, i.e. this divide between male and female in which society limits and confines women.
Ibsen’s story is a web of love triangles and connected back stories yet fairly easy to follow. Coupled with Cook’s brevity and wit, this play makes for a more than enjoyable way to spend an evening.
That cast are wonderful. Helena Wilson as Bolette is brilliantly real, hitting every line with emotional perfection; she is one of the most believable characters on a London stage right now. And Ellie Bamber as her bratty sister Hilde pulls off a fantastically fun performance, raising smiles every time she appears.
Cook’s version of The Lady from the Sea is greatly enjoyable, full of brilliant wit and with an interesting, relevant story. Combined with the great acting and a truly beautiful Caribbean set, the Donmar Warehouse is once again worth visiting.
Photo: Manuel Harlan
The Lady from the Sea is at the Donmar Warehouse from 12th October to 2nd December 2017. For further information or to book visit the Donmar Warehouse website here.