Ondine poster image
Where: Inner London
1 March 2012 WOS Rating: Average Reader Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews To the uninitiated, The White Bear may seem an unlikely choice in which to stage Jean Giraudoux’s Ondine. Billed as ‘romantic fantasy’, the tale of doomed love between a water nymph and a knight that first made Audrey Hepburn famous is not exactly what you expect to find in the back of a pub off the Kennington Park Road - and particularly not when the England game is in full swing.
However, the unlikeliness of this cult venue is also its charm, offering both a local welcome (the usher personally informs patrons when the next act is about to begin) and a fantastically intimate staging space that serves to pull the audience into this atmospherically and emotionally dark play.
Lost in the Dark’s production delivers on its promise, not so much inviting the audience to glimpse this twilight realm, as immersing theatregoers in a play which begins from the moment they enter the theatre. This is a fitting start to Ondine’s emotionally-charged three acts, where both a temporary suspension of belief in the world of the real and introspection on the nature of humanity are demanded of us. Ruminations on the transience of love, and the meaning of justice in a system where artificial constructs such as society (in this case feudal) exist to subvert dogmatic assumptions of morality in a manner recalling Shakespeare’s
Giraudoux’s play is masterfully structured and offers little respite to his inter-worldly lovers in a play where pre-WWII foreboding may be heard in each breath if one listens carefully enough. Mitigating the heavy weight of tragedy is
Ondine’s dialogue, wherein the juxtaposition of comedy and dramatic tension is so frequent as to reflect themes of mirroring in the rest of the production, providing a viewing experience as unsettling and provocative as it is enjoyable.
The cast rise to the challenge of this energetic dialogue well, with particularly strong performances from
Terry Diab ( Eugenie) and Elizabeth Merrick ( Ondine). Merrick portrays the joy and anguish of Ondine’s character with aplomb, a difficult task that could have easily ended in hysteria in the hands of a less talented actress, and maintains pace throughout. My only complaint about this production would be the low budget costuming that, in such close proximity, detracts at times from the seriousness of the play. Overall, however, this is an earnest and enjoyable production, and essential viewing for lovers of classical theatre.
- Jessica Copley
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