Ibsen x 3

This past month has been a bit of an Ibsen fest, with two plays in the past week alone. But for twice the price of a movie ticket, you get live performance and (if you’re lucky) staging beyond what you remember from your school trips to the theatre.



This was a modern, stylized performance of the play. Subdued lighting and a fog machine replaced props or the vast black stage. Rosmersholm is a story about convictions and the perceptions of society. Rosmer’s beliefs are affected by his friends (radical and conservative) and by what is published in the local paper. Tricks, insidious lies, insanity and suicide ensue – as only Scandinavians know how.

The text has the doomed lovers jumping into the foaming waters together, but the director injects doubt: Rebecca is full of conviction, and leaves to jump in, but Rosmer – who has vaccilated and questioned his own beliefs all through the play – does not follow her to death before the curtain falls.

An Enemy of the People


Again a very stylized and minimalist production. The stage is barren – locations are created using lights and shadow. While Rosmersholm was very traditional, An Enemy of the People played the form against the content.

It put on the form of a slapstick comedy, complete with spit-takes and line dancing on the serious matter of public health and the question of personal integrity. The slapstick dominated the first act, where the doctor’s life is happy and everyone was dancing cheerfully.

Towards the end, when society, the elites, his brother, everyone he thought he could count on has rejected him, the lighting rig is lowered, closer to the stage floor for each new rejection, reflecting the increasing social pressure on him.

The sound design is also more explicit and overt. While Rosmersholm had a subdued soundtrack of a distant waterfall in the background, the director of the Enemy of the People felt it necessary to underline all the major character beats with some audible cue. Metronomic beats and ghostly eerie sounds distracted from the performance more than they helped.

The Enemy of the People is a man with the strength of his own convictions – he is right, and the majority is wrong. Science and rationality trump the politically and socially expedient.

I enjoyed the themes of this play most of the three. The social forces of conformity and group power over the individual are still very much active today.


Brand - Maria Bonnevie Brand - Sven Nordin

Brand is directed by the catalanian Calixto Bieito. There are many clich├ęs about passionate Spaniards, but it does explain why this otherwise bleak play is bursting with life and color that is missing from the other performances. An antidote to the barren minimalist stages, Brand opens with a party in full swing, a giant suckling pig dominating the rear of the stage. Singing! Dancing! Sex! Three-ways! I’m sure I saw the polar-bear and the male stripper getting it on with the sexy nurse.

It is certainly not the Ibsen you read in school.

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