Little Eyolf is not an easy play, for the director, cast or audience, but that goes comes with the territory when looking at Ibsen in general. This production in particular is also apparently comlpex for reviewers many of whom have fallen into the pits of either excessive pretensions because its Ibsen or drawing excessive parallels between Imogen's role on stage and her reported private life. The pictures of her leaving the after show on the arm of a "mystery companion" had many of us giggling for days as the only mystery was why the editors failed to identify the theatre's Artistic Director Gene David Kirk.
Alfred Allmers has returned from the mountains with a new purpose in his life; to renounce his great (but incomplete) moral writings and devote himself to his son (whether his sone wants it or not), crippled in an accident when a baby. His self-obsessed wife, Rita, his devoted sister Aster and his sister's admirer are there in the house when the mysterious Rat Wife appears, an event which seems to trigger the drowning of their son, Little Eyolf. Love, divided emotions and extreme jealousy create a destructive atmosphere which it seems will leave all of the relationships destroyed but actually, in the very end, there is potential redemption.
Anthony Biggs' direction brings out the isolation of these people, both from the rest of their society with whom they seem to have very little contact and from each other. Even Alfred and Aster, with all their mutually dependence, maintain a distance. The start of the play seems slow and stilted and Imogen's performance seems to start on an emotional high leaving itself nowhere else to go but these 'faults' seem to help draw the audience into the isolated, bizarre, artificial world that the characters have built around themselves, a deeply uncomfortable place on the verge of catastrophic collapse. The final image of the play was so powerfulk that even an audience member kicking over their coke can couldn't spoil it!
Imogen's Stubb's Rita is a powerhouse of self-destruction while Jonathan Cullen's Alfred moves confidently from self important pomposity to complete emotional collapse. I could watch Nadine Lewington's acting all night, her Aster is a masterclass in under-stated inner dialogue ... quite beautiful. Doreen Mantle was delightfully quirky and capable of being surprisingly scary with little more than a flick of the eyes.
Perfect? Perhaps not quite. Powerful, stunning and memorable? Most definitely!