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Through the mountains of Justedal

We are delighted to be returning to the Barons Court Theatre to present Ibsen's Olaf Liljekrans. Yes, it is an early Ibsen, but one that I've found to have such a heart. Unlike The Feast of Solhaug and Lady Inger, both of which we have found fascinating but quite heavy dramatic pieces, Olaf Liljekrans is quite a light piece which merely hints at much more serious problems with society. The role of women in society remains a key theme and strong female characters each, in their turn, stand up to their oppressors.

Brian Johnston's To The Third Empire remarks that the play itself isn't Ibsen's finest hour (my own paraphrasing of his words!), but I find myself liking Olaf Liljekrans so much more than other early Ibsens we have produced. For a start there are quite humorous scenes throughout which reflect quite a natural family life. Even within the mildly villainous (misunderstood) Liljekrans family, there are comedic scenes which reflects that not all is ever black and white.

Lady Kirsten, here to be played by the wonderful Rebekka Magnúsdóttir, is a fascinating character study. Barely leaving the stage, this matriarch takes on the world with her white lies and wedding planning, all the whilst being both likable and (occasionally, when it suits) maternal.

Olaf Liljekrans is brought to life by Teddy Robson, bringing the perfect wafer-thin balance of the madness of midsummer eve and sheer sensual energy of falling in love. Ibsen makes very pleasing points about Alfhild, the innocent woman from the mountains, who finds herself wrongly given a trope and stereotype before she can even speak, and Grace Monroe brings power and grace to right all these wrongs by setting everyone straight that she is no pushover.

From over the river, Che Watson brings Lord Arne wonderfully to life as a man with a knowing, and serious chip on his shoulder. Equally Joe Lewis and Sarah Madden bring such bright and iridescent levity to the roles of Hemming and Ingeborg, equally as lost and wrapped-up in the magic on the mountain as Olaf and Alfhild. This pairing brings a different form of longing and desire to the surface with the perfect dash of insouciance from a pitch-perfect portrayal from Sarah Madden of Ingeborg and the blushing doe-eyed Joe Lewis.

The play is quite beautiful, and if this should be our last - I do hope we go out in style. Please do share the news of the production with anyone who you think might be interested.

Mark Ewbank, June 2018

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