Last Friday I went to see Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea at the Donmar Warehouse, as everyone knows the Donmar Warehouse is one of my favourite studio theatres in London.
So the plays focuses on Ellida, who is married to Dr Wangel but feel claustrophobic and restless in her marriage and swims in the sea everyday to escape her feeling. Although she loves her husband, ten years ago she promised herself to another man and late one summer’s day this man comes to claim Ellida. Elinor Cook’s adaptation of the play stay true to plot, but the dialogue is updated to reflect the West Indies in the 50’s and Bolette, who is also thinking about leaving the island for Oxford University.
The director Kwame Kwei-Armah sets the play on a Caribbean island during the late 50’s, at a time when most of the islands were thinking about independence from European colonial powers. This bonds the idea of country/society and Ellida, a West Indian women trapped in marriage to white man and white rule; the island itself is also trapped in an unequal relationship. Quite clever, to be honest I don’t think most in the audience worked out the link.
Tom Scutt set is very sparse, just decking and rock pool. It provided Ellida with physical support while she is dealing with her situation. Watching Ellida climb over the rock to watch the sea, she just swam in was beautiful way of highlighting her need for freedom. However the lack of set means that actors tended to be standing and talking, at times it was bit boring.
Ibsen’s writing always has a strong comment on gender roles in the society he lived in. Marriage and what truly is marriage is question Ibsen is trying to investigate here. It is possible to create a new type of marriage in which a women identity and freedom as individual is respected and maintained, whilst sharing a life together. Can society view husband and wife has a equal partnership? Nikki Amuka-Bird who truly explores every aspect of these questions and more as Ellida, I could relate to her fully. Her performance was true, emotional and active.
This interpretation needed an interval, it ran just over 100 minutes long. I felt like it needed to breathe and a 15 min break who provide that; moreover it allows the audience to absorb what has happened so far. In addition the pace was quick and some scenes didn’t land as well as they should have, like the low-key proposal scene between Bolette and Arholm; which beautifully played by Helena Wilson and Tom Mckay.
I was a bit disappointed with this production. I would have enjoyed this much more; if I was given the time to do so.
The Lady from the Sea in on till 2 December at the Donmar Warehouse.