The Lady from the Sea at the Printroom at the Coronet
A backdrop of fjord mountain ranges looms over the stage production of Henrik Ibsen’s drama, which explores the female mind and fragile relationships between the sexes, focussing on one woman’s agency against those standing in the way of her freedom.
Like a lot of his plays, The Lady from the Sea deals with topical issues, though it was written 130 years ago; unsurprising, then, that the Norwegian playwright is the second most-staged dramatist, after Shakespeare. Ibsen’s play focuses on the female psyche, and his fascination and empathy towards the women in his “drama of ideas”, is apparent here as in previous theatrical works.
It is high summer in northern Norway, and Dr Wangel (Adrian Rawlins), his second wife Ellida (Pia Tjelta) and two daughters, Bolette and Hilde (Marina Bye and Molly Windsor), attempt to make a life for themselves in the sparsely occupied land. Wangel invites Bolette’s old school teacher, Arnholm (Kåre Conradi), to assist with Ellida – the daughter of a lighthouse-keeper – who suffers from agitated nerves, is haunted by the death of her son and memories of a previous relationship with a sailor, which is marked by the Stranger’s ghostly appearance. Alongside these characters, we also have the delicate and conceited artist-in-making, Lyngstrand (Edward Ashley), whose pathetic fallacies and archaic opinions produce sniggers from the audience. Ellida is not the only individual who is restricted from using her free will by the men in her life. Bolette yearns to see the world, but is afraid to leave her father, and admired by both Lyngstrand and Arnholm, who only seek her for their own desires.
Director Marit Moum Aune’s choice to present a bilingual production is refreshing; as the characters change swiftly from English to Norwegian, text is supplied for non-natives, though there are a few instances when words are not translated on screen. The dramatic arc sets in gradually, with stage entrances and exits navigating the changing shifts. Erlend Birkeland’s set design is an impressive wooden house that is also used as a sauna. Composer Nils Petter Molvær’s music acts as a cool undercurrent that modestly defines the action.
The juxtaposition of female autonomy versus expectation of women’s roles in society is depicted well by the cast, and the show is a testament to the ongoing contemporary value of Ibsen’s work.
Photo: Tristram Kenton
The Lady from the Sea is at the Printroom from 8th February until 9th March 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.