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Mr Monkey sees The Lady From The Sea at the Royal Exchange Theatre, 18th October

Mr Monkey ventured into Manchester to go to the press night of the Royal Exchange Theatre's new production of The Lady From The Sea by Henrik Ibsen.
Mr Monkey looking at the poster for The Lady From The Sea Mr Monkey looking at the stage set coffee table Inspecting the posters dotted around the theatre Mr Monkey began to wonder if the production was going to involve a horribly large seagull. He's pretty sure the Royal Exchange people could make a giant seagull if they felt like it.

Mr Monkey climbed up into the Mezzanine Gallery to see the Andlit norðursins (Faces of the North) and Eyjafjallajökull (AY-uh-fyat-luh-YOE-kuutl) exhibitions. After scurrying downstairs to the Education Lounge to look at the glass topped coffee table which usually has a model of the stage set he wondered if the set really was going to include a giant tube of glue. On reflection he decided that was a silly idea, and that the coffee table was just showing a collection of things related to making a model stage set. He examined a cabinet showcasing the work of sometime overlooked departments at the Theatre (casting, front of house, lighting &c), then scampered to Door 5 to take his seat.
Neve McIntosh as Ellida (Royal Exchange Theatre production photo) Reece Dinsdale as Doctor Wangel (Royal Exchange Theatre production photo) This is a new production of The Lady from the Sea, adapted by David Eldridge from a literal translation of the original Norwegian. The drama, set in a small village at the end of a Norwegian fjord, centres on the Wangel family. Dr Wangel's daughters Bolette and Hilde haven't taken to their stepmother; the stepmother, Ellida, is from outside the village, has mentally withdrawn from the marriage and is yearning for change of some sort. She's also got a secret which is revealed over the course of the play.

Not being familiar with the play Mr Monkey expected 2 hours and 30 minutes of Nordic seriousness (with 20 minutes off for ice-cream). He found, however, that, while the play dealt with serious issues of gender roles, the impositions of society and the meaning of freedom and responsibility, it was shot through with lighter moments from the very start.

The set is minimal but effective, using a small collection of furniture, some clever lighting, and an effective soundscape to create summer by the sea. There are none of the pyrotechnics of the previous production, Dr Faustus, the The Lady from the Sea isn't that kind of play.

The cast is strong and convincing. Neve McIntosh stands out as Ellida, as her accent is different from the rest of the cast. Mr Monkey doesn't know if it's her natural accent, but it does mark her as an outsider. Sara Vickers really impressed Mr Monkey as Bollette, the elder daughter. Reece Dinsdale gave a convincing Dr Wangel and was particularly strong when portraying the emotional aspects of the play's climax. Bill Ward can't really shine as The Stranger because Ibsen didn't really write a very good part for him.

All in all, this is an excellent production of an interesting and thought-provoking play. And Mr Monkey was relieved to find that the production was absolutely free of seagulls.

The Lady From The Sea runs until November 6th 2010.

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