Review: Little Eyolf

Ibsen still grips with grief


Children have been dying with wearying regularity at the Almeida. The theatre's barnstorming Oresteia had that terrifyingly convincing scene in which Agamemnon's daughter is put to death with the clinical efficiency of the Dignitas clinic. That was followed by the infanticide of Medea (also revived at the Gate theatre and recently at the National, too) and now we have the death of Little Eyolf, the boy crippled as a result of parental negligence.

Ibsen is here interested in grief more than guilt. And as is always the case with the Norwegian master, what is so striking (other than the complexity of his female characters) is the sheer speed and daring of his plotting. Here, in Richard Eyre's faultless production, events and emotions unfold against a majestic backdrop of fjords.

In the foreground there is a writer father whose disabled son becomes his life's work, and a mother who resents with such vehemence her husband's disinterest in her, she might wish that her son were never born. Or was dead.

Just when you think you know what this play is, it changes. The effect of Eyolf's loss on Rita and Alfred Allmers's marriage is like watching the death and resurrection of a relationship, with many states in between.

Lydia Leonard and Jolyon Coy are superb as the possessive wife and devoted dad. And Ibsen paints a gripping portrait of marriage that is destroyed by loss and irreconcilable differences, while somehow allowing us and them some hope for the future.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive