Review: The Lady from the Sea

Written for Time Out

Stephen Unwin’s version of ‘The Lady from the Sea’ is a lively but rather rudderless affair, turning Henrik Ibsen’s strong wave into a mass of emotional eddies.

Ellida Wangel is plagued by an obsession with both the sea and a lost love. When her mysterious stranger returns, will her kindly but traditional husband give her the freedom to choose or lose her forever?

The story of this middle sister (quietly sandwiched between ‘A Doll’s House’s Nora and Hedda Gabler, no less) is a delicate balance of social interrogation and light hearted comedy. Sadly Unwin’s contemporary translation, full of repetitions and expositions, pours oil on Ibsen’s dancing waters. The audience laugh, but often in sincerely intended moments, puncturing any emotional flow.

Joely Richardson is a striking Ellida; her performance aims high but quickly becomes overwrought and superficial. A charismatic Madeleine Worrall as Bolette and a sickly Sam Crane as the buffoonish Hans Lyngstrand beautifully navigate between humour and believability. Alexandra Moen injects a deliciously dark undercurrent as youngest sibling Hilde.

Simon Higlett’s wooden wave of a floor, buttressed against a Turner-esqe backdrop is a romantic reminder of the sea’s pull, even if its fluid expanse threatens to engulf this pretty but skittish production.

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