The Lady From the Sea
Cast & Crew
|Unknown||John Franklyn Robbins|
- Observations (1)
- Source: University of Bristol Theatre Collection University of Bristol Theatre Collection
I was entranced by this extraordinary, magical production when I saw it at the Royal Exchange in Manchester at the age of sixteen: I subsequently went back five times and it remains one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen on the stage.
The theatre – as all will know – is a modular steel and glass construction inside an enormous hall Victorian hall (remnants of the last days of trading as the exchange are still visible high above one wall). The action space is in the round and there are four points of entry for the actors and for scenery at 12, 3, 6 and 9. The auditorium is situated at ground with some banquettes very close to the actors, and over further floors, with a total seating of about 750.
It is, therefore a very intimate, imediate performing space; there is no place for any actor to hide ,or to be anything less than competely visible at all times onstage; thus a challenging – but potentially very rewarding – place to play. In order to emabrace the potential of a larger acoustic, actors are frequently directed to make use of the open entry and exit points – delivering lines as they proceed in either direction, and generally to keep the speed and rhythm quite tight when completely onstage.
For this production, Michael Elliott and Laurie Dennett came up with the brilliant idea of flooding the stage with water, lighting it so that it appeared to be dark and deep, and having the dramatic action take place on boulders at stategic points. Purely as a set design, it is one of the most exquisite things I have ever seen.
Then to the recreation of the central role. I don’t think I have been more hypnotised by any other performance I have seen in the threatre, than by Vanessa Redgrave in this production and in this role of Ellida. There was an extraordinarily poetic intensity and intimacy in stillness, in the evocation of a woman who is almost a spirit, either by unfortunate circumstance or madness. At points in the play, especially the conclusion, there was a sort of magical transformation – as there should be – if this play ( and possibly all of Ibsen) can truthfully communicate to an audience.
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