Category Archives: Reviews

Review of The Lady From the Sea – 4 Stars

Sea

The Lady From the Sea

Donmar Warehouse

Reviewed – 21st October 2017

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

“Nikki Amuka-Bird’s Ellida is hypnotic, lending elegance to her deep-rooted longing that teeters on madness”

 

“The Lady From The Sea” is probably Ibsen’s most symbolic work. It is centred on Ellida, the female protagonist caught in a conflict between duty and self-determination. Stuck in her marriage to Doctor Wangel, she longs for the sea. When a former lover returns from years of absence, she is forced to decide between freedom and the new life she has made for herself.

The action is transplanted from the icy Norwegian fjords to a sultry Caribbean beach, where the stifling heat adds to the feelings of being trapped, as relationships untangle and are knotted back together again, in Elinor Cook’s adaptation. Cook’s text, coupled with the strength of the performances, draws one into a fresh way of looking at the play. The language has an easy, contemporary feel bringing a crisp clarity to Ibsen’s themes: the divide between men and women. Even back in the late nineteenth century Ibsen called this “the modern tragedy”, presciently claiming that “a woman cannot be herself in today’s society” because it is shaped and dictated by men.

Kwame Kwei-Armah, the next artistic director of the Young Vic, is at the helm. His uncluttered direction gives ample space for the comedy to tease through. Ibsen’s observations were often so acute they were funny – and Kwei-Armah embraces this. Throwing some tropical heat into the mix adds an extra, spicy lightness of touch. However, the Caribbean setting is not fully explored, and is often pushed into the margins. There is scant reference to the location and, during the more introspective moments, Lee Curran’s moody lighting too often dips back into the cold North Atlantic.

Sea

The play’s action takes place on the day that the doctor’s daughters from a previous marriage are preparing the celebrations for their dead mother’s birthday. Ellie Bamber and Helena Wilson excel in playing the daughters, their loyalties torn between the memory of their mother and the grudging acceptance of their stepmother. Nikki Amuka-Bird’s Ellida is hypnotic, lending elegance to her deep-rooted longing that teeters on madness. Finbar Lynch is a master at portraying the dilemma Elida’s husband faces. His commanding performance, just a few feet from the audience, impels us to share his turmoil: his struggle to reconcile his self-perceived duty as a husband with that of giving his wife the freedom of choice. Initially he believes that withholding that freedom of choice is protecting her, and it is only when he finally relinquishes his hold on her that they are both freed from the ghosts that haunt them.

There is a surprising simplicity to the play, which is its appeal. The key themes are the subject of countless pop songs in today’s world. There are tragic moments but it’s also a play about love. But unlike many a pop song this play is perfectly pitched. There is a harmony in the collision of the two worlds; the spiritual and the political. “Paradise is all well and good until you’re trapped in it” echoes one of the characters. The strength of this production lies in the overriding feeling that Ibsen could have written this yesterday. Testament, not only to the playwright himself, but also to the team that have brought this pearl to the Donmar Warehouse.

 

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Manuel Harlan

 

 

THE LADY FROM THE SEA

is at the Donmar Warehouse until 2nd December

 

 

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Review of Between a Man and a Woman – 5 Stars

Woman

Between a Man and a Woman

Etcetera Theatre

Reviewed – 20th October 2017

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

“an incredibly hard-working cast, that have excelled in portraying an immensely gripping story”

 

From the moment I walked in, there was an immediate tense and eerie atmosphere. It was dark, there was no music and it was silent, and now having seen the show, one can only speculate that the reason for this was to highlight how victims of domestic violence, are suffering in silence. Written and directed by Scott James, ‘Between a Man and a Woman’ is an extremely powerful production. James certainly doesn’t shy away from tackling such a taboo subject, and his cast undoubtedly deliver a raw and emotional performance.

Tom (Millin Thomas) and Polly (Jasmin Gleeson) appear to be a happy married couple, but things begin to change. Tom repeatedly abuses his partner, he hits, kicks, bites, strangles, and at one point even rapes his wife. This was a difficult scene to watch. It was uncomfortable and at times I wanted to look away, but then I’d be turning a blind eye, a typical reaction some people have when dealing with abuse.

This dark and disturbing piece gave me goosebumps throughout, and Jasmin’s performance as the very fragile and vulnerable Polly, was outstanding. Thomas’ performance as the violent, manipulative Tom, was equally as good. What I found so intriguing about his performance, was his ability to suddenly switch from being manic and child-like (often mimicking his wife), to an aggressive, sinister young man. It was clear that he had a very split personality, and Thomas did a remarkable job at conveying his erratic and unpredictable behaviour.

The whole cast have dedicated a lot of time, energy and commitment into producing what I believe, is one of the best Fringe shows in London. One can only imagine that rehearsing a piece about domestic violence isn’t just physically draining, but also mentally and emotionally too. This is an incredibly hard-working cast, that have excelled in portraying an immensely gripping story.

However, I can’t help but wonder what difference it would have made if James had reversed the roles around. So, instead of a man abusing a woman, it would have been a woman abusing a man. This would have been interesting to watch, as it’s very unusual to see a production that not only tackles such a sensitive topic, but where the woman adopts the role as the abuser and the man is the victim. Nevertheless, this was still a very well executed performance.

During this 90-minute production, the audience soon become aware that Tom, and his younger brother Harry (Duncan Mitchell), were both physically abused by their father during their childhood. Here, James somewhat asks the question if abuse is hereditary or imitated, and if the vicious cycle of abuse can ever be broken. This is a harrowing piece of drama, that really does make you think.
Towards the end, Polly seeks help from her friend and soon escapes her abusive husband. Polly later confronts her abuser and says “you broke me.” This is such a poignant line and I couldn’t help but get very emotional.

One can only hope that this well-written production transfers to a bigger venue in London, so it can raise even more awareness about domestic violence to a much wider audience. All in all, I feel so fortunate to have witnessed such a remarkable piece of theatre.

 

Reviewed by Jessica Brewer

 

 

BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN

is at The Etcetera Theatre until 22nd October

 

 

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