Thursday, 29 November 2012
Love's Comedy by Henrik Ibsen
I like going to the Orange Tree theatre and I like seeing my friend Jonathan Tafler acting. I have seen my sister in a number of Ibsen plays, but Ibsen's not on my list of heroes - not because he doesn't deserve to be, of course he does, but because I've never got into him. So Orange Tree & Jonathan and seeing my sister and niece, all well and good. But Ibsen? A very early Ibsen? Never before performed in this country? Why not, one wondered. Presumably because it wasn't up to much. So: I had reservations.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were no longeurs when I had to look around the audience guessing what everyone did (or once did - the OT audience is not a young one) - even during some ridiculously long speeches about the nature and/or meaning of love, destiny, life, etc.. This was one of those plays about being young and kicking down the traces of convention and so on, thoroughly ant-bourgeois. Except for two things: a) it was by Ibsen, and so not entirely dogmatic and b) the bourgeois, ironically, emerge a little brow-beaten, but nonetheless in one piece. Rather like 'The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie' in which the cast simply keep on walking...
So, although the words were fundamentally of the student-play variety, they were richer than the usual fodder (hardly a sentence was allowed to pass without a metaphor or simile tanking it up), and the cast was thoroughly up for them, even the rhyming couplets that they quite often took to being.
The set had an apple tree blossoming and bits of garden furniture, and a van-goghy sky, plus there was a twittering (traditional sense) bird. I wasn't bored for a minute. Sarah Winter as Swanhild (the lead female) was excellent though her voice occasionally grated, and Mark Arends (male lead) was thoroughly inflamed as revolutionary poet / lover, etc. Mr Tafler, as always, was terrific.