Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 12 January 2013

The Lady From The Sea

Courtyard Theatre ⋄ 9th - 20th January 2013

Still water.

Lisa Paul

Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea stands apart from the playwright’s other later work, a strange and compelling piece of writing filled with marine symbolism with an uncharacteristically uplifting conclusion. But though Red Line Productions’ uneven production at the Courtyard Theatre attempts to plunder the play’s psychological depths, it only ever skims the surface.

Ellida Wangel, the daughter of a lighthouse keeper, has anchored herself to life as the second wife of a provincial doctor and stepmother to his two daughters. But her mind is lost at sea, spiritually possessed by a shadowy former sailor-lover who once sowed in her a seed of longing for the ocean. Ellida is as remote from her husband and stepdaughters as a solitary lighthouse keeper, a mermaid figure living uneasily among strangers on the land. So when this stranger – a representation of her repressed sexuality – returns to claim her, offering an escape from the airless world she lives in, Ellida must decide to confront her marriage or answer the call of the sea.

Wrapped in a floating white gown, with her long hair flowing down her back, Nina Moniri’s Ellida is at times a powerfully haunting presence, a wild-eyed woman trapped outside her element, but there are also times where her performance is too overwrought to fully convince. In the main, her portrayal is incredibly engaging, holding the production together as a woman obsessed, and capturing the sense of a shackled spirit within Ellida. But when confronted by the sudden appearance of the stranger and the resurfacing of her past, her responses are almost too nervy, her lines delivered too fast, to the point where she stumbles over her words; for me, this only distracted from her character’s plight, breaking the spell.

Glenn Speers, as her doctor husband,  is quietly compelling, ably conveying the heartbroken decency of a man struggling against his wishes to grant Ellida the freedom to choose. Likewise, the artist Lyngstrand (played by Paul Giles) is a refreshing and brilliantly comic yet also poignant presence, with his chronic limp and complete inability to recognise his failing health. But as the two resentful stepdaughters, both Dominique Bull, as Boletta, and Julia Korning, as Hilde, are off-key. When Boletta agrees to a loveless proposal from her tutor Arnholm (Michael Armstrong), Bull fails to capture the tragic irony that she is about to repeat Ellida’s own terrible mistake. While Julia Korning occasionally overplays as the impish Hilde, her performance does at least fleetingly touch on the insecurities of the motherless younger daughter, a troubled and flirtatious girl yearning for the safety net of love.


Lisa Paul

Lisa graduated from Durham University last year and since then she has gained experience at magazines including Vogue and Conde Nast Traveller. She is Assistant Editor at Northstar, and regularly contributes to the Time Out blog.

The Lady From The Sea Show Info

Produced by Red Line Productions

Directed by Benjamin Blyth

Cast includes Michael Armstrong, Dominique Bull, Paul Giles, Pip Gladwin, Julia Korning, Nina Moniri, and Glen Speers

Running Time 2 hours 15 mins (including a 15 minute interval)



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