The Lady from the Sea, Rose Theatre, Kingston-on-Thames, February 2012

Moving inland from the sea can create a residual yearning for freedom, the wish to escape from a marriage, and this play by Ibsen has a feeling of impending tragedy. Yet given the freedom you desire, you may decide to stay on land, and tragedy can turn in a moment to a promise of stability and happiness.

Joely Richardson as the lady from the sea

Malcolm Storry as Dr. Wangel

As the husband, Dr. Wangel, Malcolm Storry portrayed an engaging, wise and sensitive man, with Joely Richardson as his troubled wife Ellida, the lady from the sea, tense and charming, yet hiding tides of emotion. They headed a superb cast, including Sam Crane as the irritatingly delusional wannabe Hans Lyngstrand, whose conceited theories of women and matrimony were hilarious. In fact this is really a comedy, and Robert Goodale as the versatile Ballested, who can do many things but always stutters on the same word, was a delight. Madeleine Worrall and Alexandra Moen were perfect as the doctor’s daughters, Richard Dillane was charmingly sincere as the Arnholm, the ex-tutor, and Gudmundur Thorvaldsson with his Icelandic accent was a threatening presence as The Stranger.

“That man is like the sea”, says Ellida at the very end of part I, and then like the tide he returns towards the end of part II saying, “From now on you are nothing more to me than — a ship in the night”. This is all in the new translation by Stephen Unwin, who also created this production, with its wonderful costumes by Mark Bouman, simple yet effective sets by Simon Higlett, beautifully lit by Malcolm Rippeth.

Ballested and Lyngstrand

Stephen Unwin is artistic director of the Rose, and is working through more of Ibsen’s naturalistic plays. His translation and direction make this home-grown production a huge success, and I look forward to more Ibsen at the Rose.

Performances continue until March 17 — for details click here.

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