LITTLE EYOLF

Henrik Ibsen

Translated, Designed and Directed by Terje Tveit
Lighting Design by Finnuala McNulty

Riverside Studios, London

17 January – 12 February 2006

Teatret Vårt, Molde, Norway

10 – 11 March 2006

Parken Kulturhus, Ålesund, Norway

12 March 2006

Cast

Edward Fulton Alfred
Sarah Head Rita
Valborg Frøysnes Asta
Shane Armstrong Eyolf
Stephen Doran Borgheim
Rosalind Stockwell Rat-Wife

Reviews

“Poetic, intensely detailed production that takes rarely-seen Ibsen out of the realistic frame. Just three months after Terje Tveit’s production for Dale Teater Kompani of Ibsen’s early, expansive Peer Gynt, covering decades and continents with a 14-strong ensemble, it’s fascinating to see his account of the much later, extremely compact Little Eyolf. The intense relationships lie between the three adult Allmers, giving this play its Freudian landscape. ... Directing in his non-realistic ensemble style, Tveit loses the claustrophobia of a living-room and the sheer everydayness of the Allmers’ agonized marriage. The abstract setting can make the dialogue seem abstract also. But the gains are immense in unlocking Eyolf’s modernity and Ibsen’s astonishing psychological acuity. Alfred doubly denies life: in his marriage to Sarah Head’s black-clad Rita – they look away from each other whenever they talk - and in seeing Eyolf only as a vessel to continue his great literary project. Loose manuscript pages are stored in a huge suitcase kept central stage, till Alfred stuffs it under a mini-bridge, scenic echo of the water where Eyolf (already crippled in a moment of parental neglect) drowns. Almost mockingly, using the kind of revelation he despised in nineteenth century boulevard dramatists, Ibsen reveals Asta and Alfred are not blood-relatives. There’s been no doubt where true passion lies; Alfred may be too obsessed with his self-image to realize, but Valborg Frøysnes’ patient, resignedly pained yet loving Asta is more self-aware. Thematically choreographed, with Head especially showing the pain of a strangled relationship, with crippled Eyolf viewing people through his crutch and Rosalind Stockwell’s quietly sinister Rat-Wife ever-present, this production needs careful following but shows Little Eyolf in its full depth, picking up themes running through Ibsen’s earlier, more famous dramas.”

Reviews Gate

“How many modern-dress productions of Ibsen have you seen? Not many, I would bet. For although his work resonates down the years, its springboard is, very specifically, the confined world of provincial Norway in the latter half of the 19th century. Thus the clothes are the first of many problems that bedevil this ill-judged tonally shifting production by Terje Tveit, who also translated and adapted. The action unfolds uncomfortably on a minimalist all-white set, which boasts one of the most irritating pieces of stage furniture I have seen in many an evening. A tiny bridge, complete with steps, signifies the divide between house and garden, and the cast traipses over it endlessly, like Scandinavian hamsters on a wheel of ill fortune. It doesn't help that, apart from the adult actor playing the eponymous nipper, everyone looks far too young for their roles. Unbridled sexual passion between would-be writer Alfred Allmers and his wife, Rita, indirectly led to the crippling of their son some years previously, yet it is impossible to see why the dithering Allmers (Edward Fulton) has now lost the hots for this particular Rita, played with simmering feistiness by Sarah Head. Rita is an intriguingly modern Ibsen heroine, a woman who is not, in the words of today's magazines, Getting What She Wants In Bed and is not afraid to say so. Head acts her fellow cast members off the stage, but even she can't negotiate the adaptation's unnecessarily choppy ending. Disappointing.”

Evening Standard

“Ibsen is renowned for creating strong, passionate women in his plays and Little Eyolf, one of his lesser known plays, is no exception. ... Sarah Head, who is a force to be reckoned with, plays the dominant Rita Allmers with a mix of vulnerability and hard-hearted sharpness. Her sentences are delivered quickly and sharply, her movements stilted and her eyes are constantly wide open and searching. She honestly acknowledges her deep love and suffering but cannot do anything about it. During her struggle the course of her life changes again and her son dies by drowning, igniting resentment between herself and her husband. The set is small and simple but Dale Teater Kompani prove you don’t need elaborate scenery to create great theatre. They succeed in bringing to life vivid and haunting images throughout – the lifeless Eyolf lying on the bottom of the fjord with his eyes wide open, the crutch floating alone on the water. The play is a beautiful, sad and honest portrayal of a family trying to come to terms with their own desires under tragic circumstances. It has been pointed out that, after Shakespeare, Ibsen is the most performed playwright, and having seen this powerful production of Little Eyolf, it is easy to see why.”

Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush Gazette

“It’s little wonder that the capital’s theatreland is in such creative disarray when some of the most engaging and thrilling theatre currently being staged in London plays outside the West End. Dale Teater Kompani’s adaptation of Little Eyolf is truly wonderful. Directed with flair by Terje Tveit, the production is stunning, a triumph of simple set design and graceful performances. Little Eyolf is awash with symbolism: the physical crutch of the young crippled Eyolf acting as a crutch in his parents’ relationship; an old wooden suitcase acting as a catalyst for a journey of return, as well as a journey of freedom. There is plenty to wade through and ponder here, but Dale Teater Kompani’s staging is hugely accessible, distinguished by brisk pacing and compelling performances. ... Sadness and remorse, as in most Ibsen, soon descends upon the Allmers household; suffice to say that the accidental death of little Eyolf brings familial secrets and longings to the fore, lighting the touch-paper on the near-destruction of a rocky marriage. The entire cast of the Dale Teater Kompani is outstanding, with special praise reserved for Head and Frøysnes in the demanding roles of the two women caught up in this maelstrom of emotion. ... With an enthusiastic and assured production, the themes in Ibsen’s writing come vividly to life on the stage of the Riverside Studios. Terje Tveit’s production of Little Eyolf is a wonder to experience.”

Virgin Internet Magazine

“The old sage died in May 1906. But every year in Britain is Ibsen year. And this production of Little Eyolf, translated and directed by Terje Tveit for Norway’s Dale Teater Kompani, left me in two minds: delight at seeing a rare, late Ibsen was tempered by Tveit’s determination to make Ibsen’s symbolism and sub-text noisily explicit. Little Eyolf is a damnably difficult play; one that amounts to a pre-Freudian spiritual striptease on the part of Alfred Allmers and his wife Rita after the death of their nine-year-old child. Alfred is forced to confront his passion for his presumed half-sister, Asta. Rita has to acknowledge her devouring jealousy and subconscious wish to eliminate Eyolf. Only after a purgative process of self-examination are Alfred and Rita fit to face the world together, though I find something grimly comic about their idea of starting a school for the village children. Since this is a play about remorseless excavation, it seems faintly perverse for Tveit to announce everything upfront. The whole cast assembles on stage to chorally intone key lines such as one about Eyolf lying on his back in the water with open eyes. Asta and Alfred constantly paw each other and, at one point, she straddles his prostrate form while ostensibly letting out his trousers. And the symbol of Eyolf’s crutch, so potent in Ibsen's text, is here turned into an endlessly replayed visual motif; it doesn’t merely float in the water but spins in the air and becomes a window on this tortured world. Tveit, in short, pre-empts the play’s revelations so that, long before the end, we have reached exhaustion. But at least he has a company of actors that measures up to the play’s intensity. Edward Fulton is a seriously good Alfred who brings out the character’s yearning to regress to infantile sexuality. Sarah Head as his wife, conversely, progresses from animalistic desire to spiritual charity confirming my view the play should really be called Educating Rita. And Valborg Froysnes loyally recalls the unsatisfied itch under Asta’s long-skirted severity. I just wish the audience could be left to discover Ibsen’s meaning for itself rather than being given a guided tour.”

The Guardian

“Eyes of Eyolf ... Little Eyolf and the crippled Allmers family looked both each other – and life – straight in the eye in a production of uncompromising and intense reality performing at Forum in Molde last Friday. A top-score production presented by Dale Teater Kompani. The play from 1894 has stood the test of time, and with the energy given by the ensemble, the production could easily kill off any of today’s TV-reality-nonsense. The actors were captivating, and the interaction between Sarah Head/Edward Fulton as husband and wife Rita and Alfred Allmers was electrifying. Valborg Frøysnes, Shane Armstrong, Stephen Doran and particularly Rosalind Stockwell as the mysterious Rat-Wife were impressive. Terje Tveit directs with a deft hand and is also responsible for the English translation. ... Alfred and Rita Allmers are a married couple in deep crisis. Both are seeking something to hold onto, searching for goals that are unattainable. A family drama on the edge where disappointment and bitterness are eating away what once was their common pride and happiness. ... A brave production from Dale Teater Kompani and Teatret Vårt, and first and foremost a triumph for the actors. They showed the discipline, energy and ability to present the play in a production which probably would have delighted Ibsen greatly. Also credit to Carl Morten Amundsen who succeeded in hooking this ensemble to Molde.”

Romsdalen Budstikke

This link opens an image of the Romsdalen Budstikke article in Norwegian.

Hystrio


Hystrio article Hystrio review by Laura Caretti. This link opens an image of the Hystrio review in Italian.

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