The Feast at Solhaug' review or 'What rhymes with Ibsen?'

The Feast at Solhaug, Henrik Ibsen
Baron's Court Theatre, 8th April 2015 
Written for Time Out 

Margit of Solhaug is so rich that she sleeps on silk pillows. But she is stuck in a loveless marriage, fettered by the riches she once sought. ‘The Feast of Solhaug’ has a whiff of ‘Hedda Gabler’ about it – but this is one of Henrik Ibsen’s earlier works and, although there are some flashes of darkness in this UK premiere, ‘Feast’ is a pale imitation of Ibsen’s later classics. 

No set designer is credited in Dr Mark Ewbank’s dignified production and the bare stage merely flickers moodily with a few well-placed lanterns. We are in north Norway, where young Margit (Lucy Pickles) has grown old before her time, married to the loaded but lecherous Bengt Gauteson (Che Watson). When Margit’s childhood sweetheart, Gudmond Alfson (Will Timbers) turns up on the eve of this unhappy couple’s wedding anniversary, Margit’s ‘wild soul’ is awoken once more. 

Pickles drags her body painfully about the stage, as if weighted down by her husband’s riches. She is the mournful centre around which the small cast circles. Kelsey Williams is as innocent as a kitten as younger sister Signe, Will Timbers is a dashing but lily-livered Gudmond and Peter Wheal-Jones shines wickedly as Signe’s snarling suitor, Knut Gesling.  

It’s a fine effort from this young cast, but ‘Feast’ is essentially an Ibsen sketch, the characters mere outlines and the plot fairly patchy. Lots of the dialogue is written in rhyming verse with a few streaks of searing poetry, but the neat rhymes soon feel restrictive. As one mentally finishes the actors’ sentences, one longs for the messier and meatier Ibsen of later years. 


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