Home » London Theatre Reviews » Henrik Ibsen’s Lady Inger by ottisdotter | Review

Henrik Ibsen’s Lady Inger by ottisdotter | Review

The aim of the collaborative theatre company Ottisdotter is to revive interest in lesser-known plays which highlight the role of women. As they have produced three of Ibsen’s early works, one of which – Lady Inger of Östrȧt – gave the company its name, there seems to be a particular focus on Ibsen as well.

Henrik Ibsen's Lady IngerLady Inger of Östrȧt was written in 1854 but there was no definitive English language publication until 1890. It would be nearly 30 years before the first production in London, at the Scala Theatre in 1906. Lady Inger has been criticised as historically inaccurate and does not, other than in the final act, rise to the level of Ibsen’s great works. It has remained one of Ibsen’s least performed works, at least as far as London audiences are concerned, with only four productions between the first – at the Scala Theatre in 1906 – and the most recent – in 2013, when the play was rescued from obscurity at the Baron’s Court by Jump Cut Productions with Georgina Pickul in the title role.

The 2013 production was staged at Barons’s Court but the venue for this revival is The Space, a venue larger and closer in atmosphere and structure to the manor house home in Trøndelag, of the real Lady Inger, regarded as “the wealthiest, best-born and cleverest woman” in Norway. The play is based more or less on true events, and in this early work, Ibsen is clearly drawing on the plotting and structure of Shakespearean tragedies, especially Hamlet. And if the theatrical device of Chekhov’s gun is absent there is a Chekhovian story in which a woman does the most terrible thing imaginable to evade pursuing wolves.

After a slow opening, this new production comes alive with the entrance of Nils Lykke, a Danish diplomat, played by a superb Ivan Comisso. Lykke is the prototype of Hedda Gabler’s Judge Brack and Comisso gives an outstanding performance in the role, especially in a thrilling scene with Lady Inger’s daughter Elina, played by a luminous Juliet Ibberson in a part that feels seriously underwritten. Where others in the cast rely on overly large gestures and threatening stares, Comisso’s is nuanced and meticulously detailed. By contrast, Kristin Duffy rarely gets below the surface of Lady Inger. Tom Everatt gives the difficult role of Olaf Skaktavl dignity and force while Joe Lewis, playing Nils Stensson, does his best to reconcile the improbabilities that have brought the play’s least plausible character to Ostrat. The final character in this new and uncredited adaptation is Bjorn (Siôn Grace), Lady Inger’s faithful but feckless chief steward.

Lady Inger is an old-fashioned melodrama and, bar a few anachronistic lines in this new and uncredited adaptation, it still feels like a melodrama, especially as directed here with rather too much of actors walking towards each other and then away from each other. Nevertheless, Ottisdotter – as Jump Cut have become – are to be applauded for giving audiences one more opportunity to see a professional production of this complex play.

3 Star Review

Review by John Groves

Ibsen’s Lady Inger is a powerful play. Partly based on a true story in 1500s Norway, Ibsen’s five-act drama charts a series of difficult decisions taken by a woman who is forced into the shoes of her recently deceased husband. A widow living in an isolated castle off the coast of Trondheim is the last remaining vestige of Norway’s national identity. With the weight of expectation on her and chauvinist attitudes of those in support of her, she must calculate what gambles she is willing to take for her family and her nation.

Ottisdotter’s adaptation of the text streamlines this play written when Henrik Ibsen was only 27 years old and charts, even more intensely, the dramatic decisions that Lady Inger must take to save herself, her people and Norway.

LADY INGER
27 JUN – 8 JUL 2023
https://space.org.uk/

Related News & Reviews Past & Present

  1. Ottisdotter presents Henrik Ibsen’s Olaf | Review
  2. Review of The Lady from the Sea at the Donmar Warehouse
  3. The National Theatre of Norway presents Little Eyolf by Henrik Ibsen
  4. Lady J at Waterloo East Theatre | Review
  5. The Lady from the Sea at the Print Room at the Coronet

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