That was October in London theatre-land
Quick review: The brilliant Beginning, National Theatre

Review: The Lady From The Sea, Donmar Warehouse or what I remember

ImageSaw this back in October and normally I write up my thoughts within a few days, while everything is still fresh but work, then a holiday got in the way.  However, it is actually proving an interesting exercise, reflecting after nearly a month, on what has stayed with me - and some stuff has, which is a good sign at least, we've all seen those easily forgettable plays.

Ibsen's Norway mountains setting has been swapped for the Caribbean which works well in the main - references to the end of the summer and coming of colder weather did jar a little. Ellida (Nikki Amuka-Bird) is the new wife of widower Dr Wangel (Finbar Linch) who has two teenage daughters Hilde (Ellie Bamber) and Bolette (Helena Wilson) from his first marriage.

She grew up by the sea and swims everyday with a dedication and a fervour that hints of emotional disquiet. Two things haunt her: A former romance with a sailor and a recent tragedy. Worried, Wangel invites his Bolette's former tutor Arnholm (Tom McKay) to visit in the hope it will distract her but her sailor also makes an appearance.

Arnholm is interested romantically in Bolette and so is the awkward and sickly young artist Lynstrand (Jonny Holden) and so you have two threads exploring marriage, love and freedom. And it was the second thread with the Bolette-Arnholm-Lynstrand triangle that really hooked me, quite simply because I felt Bolette's dilemma more. She is intelligent and wants to go to university but feels a duty to her father. Arnholm offers an escape of sorts, despite not feeling quite the same way about him - it would please her father but she still wouldn't gain the freedom to broaden her horizon.

I've been trying to work out why I didn't connect with Ellida in the same way, why I didn't care quite as much about her and her dilemma, and perhaps there are a couple of reasons. First she is quite an aloof character, internalised and she didn't get under my skin in the same way - the playfulness, awkwardness and humour of the teenagers drew me more, perhaps that was just the mood I was in on the night. Second, the back story about why her sailor lover left, well, I just didn't buy it, it felt incongruous with the tone and the rest of the story and left unanswered questions. Again that could just be me.

This is the first production of The Lady From The Sea that I've seen so I don't have anything to compare but while there was stuff I really enjoyed, it didn't wholly engage me. It runs at the Donmar until December 2.