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Review: The Lady From the Sea, at Donmar Warehouse

Fast-paced production telling the story of a conflicted lighthouse keeper’s daughter is a successful interpretation of Ibsen’s play

26 October, 2017 — By Sipora Levy

Finbar Lynch and Nikki Amuka-Bird in The Lady from the Sea. PHOTO: MANUEL HARLAN

IBSEN is considered to be a feminist playwright. Certainly he has a lot to say about the emancipation of women and power struggles between the sexes.

Here we find the excellent Nikki Amuka-Bird as the conflicted lighthouse keeper’s daughter, Ellida. Constrained by her marriage to the widowed Dr Wangel (Finbar Lynch), she longs for freedom and is haunted by a relationship she had 20 years previously, and a tragic secret.

Wangel has two daughters, the over­-responsible Bolette (Helena Wilson) and her tricky teenage sister Hilde (Ellie Bamber) who resent Ellida. Thrown into the mix is their predatory ex-tutor Arnholm (Tom McKay) and a consumptive young sculptor, Lyngstrand (Jonny Holden).

Whittled down to a fast-paced one hour 45 minutes by Elinor Cook, it has been transported from a 19th-century Norwegian fjord to a 1950s Caribbean island.

Directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, newly appointed artistic director at The Young Vic, it gives us a glimpse of what to expect of his tenure there.

Certainly his interpretation is successful in bringing out the humour in Ibsen’s play, and making some of the male characters more sympathetic. It is finely acted and sharply directed.

The lagoon in a fish tank, designed by Tom Scutt, which dominates the stage, is awkward and distracting, however. Some of the action seemed rushed – in particular the relationship between Bolette and her former tutor, Arnholm, which is not fully developed.

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