Stephen Unwin has a reputation as a journeyman director and this is a suitably workmanlike production of The Lady From the Sea, that rarity amongst Ibsen's plays - a story with a happy ending. The problem is that the two leads fail to sparkle. Malcolm Storry overdoes the stolidity of Wangel in the face of his wife's possible desertion and Joely Richardson, in a role that is a family tradition, doesn't completely capture the enigmatic passion and emotional confusion of Ellida. Fortunately the lighter sub-plots are much better handled and there are particularly good supporting performances from Madeleine Worrall and Alexandra Moen as the two Wangel sisters. There's always plenty to appreciate with the subtleties of characterisation and the ebb and flow of emotions of Ibsen but this production fails to do more than scratch the surface of its potential. - David Baxter
18 Mar 12
Malcolm Storry's Doctor Wangel is simply too stolid to stoke up the heat in the central love triangle here. When nutty Ellida Wangel (a suitably bonkers and entirely credible Joely Richardson) seeks to liberate herself from him time and time again, he just seems to take it on the chin, offering little to any resistance. I think this is misjudged, leaving Richardson with noone to ignite the spark of her desperate bid for female liberation. Seeing Richard Dillane in a fine gentlemanly supporting role here, I couldn't help but recall his big brother, Stephen Dillane being part of an absolutely incendiary central duo in Ibsen's The Master Builder at the Almeida. Now that duo had such spark that that bonkers Ibsen relationship became transcendent. It made me wish that Richard Dillane had played Doctor Wangel here, as I think he would have played off Richardson in a more realistic, less docile way, possessing as he does much of his brother's smouldering charisma. Anyhow, this production is beautiful to look at with it's wood-that-looks-like-waves design, and there was a delicious bite to the performance of Alexandra Moen, especially in her mocking of Sam Crane's pompous monstrous affected artist. So a mixed bag, that doesn't make the most of Richardson's success at channeling a woman's desperate yearning to be free like the sea. - steveatplays
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