Deep in the bowels of the ‘Curtains Up’ pub, lays a little cellar theatre that lends a unique sense of authenticity to this tale from the 1800s. The very dark and candlelit space seems almost carved from the walls, and the rickety chairs and cushions only enhance the ambience and create a re-imagining of watching the local travelling players perform.
Knowing that this is a very special adaptation, being staged for the first time in English from its native Norwegian, it is amazing how beautifully the lyrical poetry and songs retain their flow and rhythm. It is no mean feat, and a credit to the Director Mark Ewbank and the Stage Manager Rosalind Murdoch to take us on this 19th century journey and make it accessible and enjoyable in this most rudimental of performance spaces. Indeed, the whole cast are allowed to shine in this stripped down realization of Ibsen’s critically acclaimed play. Aided only by the stunning but understated classic costumes and haunting incidental music, the company never miss a beat and the acoustics enhance their unaccompanied singing, letting the purity of their voices creep into our heads and hearts. The cave like quality of the venue acts as a microphone amplifying the power, never more so than with the wonderful diction of Joe Lewis (Erik of Hegge/Chancellor), highlighting the importance of even the smallest parts.
The play itself centres on our protagonist Margit, a woman in a good marriage with wealth, a good man; everything she could want – apart from love and adventure. This age old problem of a dissatisfied wife is masterfully played by the very talented Lucy Pickles; who shows great command as she takes control of her own destiny and that of all around her. The quest for the missing link to complete happiness arrives in the form of a kinsman and former flame Gudmund Alfson (Will Timbers) whom, as an outlaw, she imagines can provide the adventure and excitement she is missing. This gentle but heroic character, on finding Margit married, transfers his affections to her younger sister Signe (the perfectly innocent Kelsey Williams), also pursued by the Kings sheriff Knut Gesling.
These misreading of feelings and misunderstandings occur on the night of a feast to celebrate the anniversary of Margit’s unhappy marriage. Amongst the frivolities are threats of infidelity, betrayal and murder – is worthy of a modern day soap opera, such is the drama. The light relief is brought by two brilliant comic performances. Che Watson as Margit’s oblivious husband Bengt, aware of his wife’s unhappiness but hell bent on enjoying the festivities, drinking his way to enlightenment; and Peter Wheal-Jones as the almost moustache twirling classic villain Knut Gesling.
This performance really does seem a labour of love. Every detail is perfect; from the sweet soulful voices, film star heroes and villains; and even the room itself playing a part creating the ambience and acoustics needed to bring it all together. A very sweet and impressive adaptation.
Review by Rachel Borland
Presented for a strictly-limited three week run at the Barons Court Theatre in West London, The Feast at Solhaug is directed by Mark Ewbank and Holly Prescott. The impressive, seasoned cast includes Lucy Pickles, Kelsey Williams, Will Timbers, Che Watson, Peter Wheal-Jones and Joe Lewis.
Margit Lucy Pickles
Signe Kelsey Williams
Bengt Gauteson Che Watson
Gudmund Alfson Will Timbers
Knut Gesling Peter Wheal-Jones
Erik of Hegge Joe Lewis
Director: Mark Ewbank
Associate Director: Holly Prescott
Design and Tech: Rosalind Murdoch
Costume: Eleanor Watson
Address: Barons Court Theatre, 28a Comeragh Rd, London W14 9HP
Dates: Performances Thursday 9th April – Saturday 25th April 2015
Press Preview: Wednesday 8th April 2015
Performances: Wednesday to Saturday at 7.30pm; matinees Saturday 2:30pm
Ticket prices: £14 (£12 preview) Concessions available.
Box Office: Telephone 020 8932 4747
Thursday 9th April 2015