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Little Eyolf

Published 27 November 2015

What’s it all about?

After the colossal success of the multi Olivier Award-winning Ghosts, Richard Eyre returns to the Almeida to direct another Ibsen piece, and while it may be just as bleak, it’s also equally stunning.

The Almeida has form in recent months of sending children to a grisly stage end and Little Eyolf is no exception. The title character is son to Alfred and Rita Allmers whose marriage is already crumbling when he drowns just steps away from their front door. As the horrific grief threatens to destroy them both, Ibsen does what he does best and slowly reveals a myriad of guilty secrets and illicit desires.

Who’s in it?

Lydia Leonard is electrifying as a mother with just a touch of the Medea about her. At first she is a pragmatic, sour ice queen caught between the idealistic, flushed-faced pairing of siblings Alfred (Jolyon Coy) and Asta (Eve Ponsonby), but Leonard’s visceral performance evolves to reveal the character’s very human desire to be wanted and a rather less relatable possessiveness that borders on psychopathic.

From the moment we meet Ponsonby, hair dishevelled and brow beaded with sweat, she provides the ultimate contrast to Leonard’s cold elegance, while Coy toys with your allegiance as the flighty Alfred; flitting from childishly likeable to irritatingly irresolute.

What should I look out for?

Leonard and Coy’s haunting portrayal of grief. It’s fraught with tension and captures the utter anguish and disbelief of an event so horrific in a split second it snaps shut your life as you knew it.

How modern it feels. The story may have been written more than 100 years ago, but it still resonates. We might be “capsized by someone’s beauty” over Tinder these days, but the complexities of relationships and sex haven’t changed all that much it seems.

In a nutshell?

A snapshot of grief, bitterness and desperation, Little Eyolf continues the Almeida’s run of gruelling but stunning tragedies that resonate for a 21st century audience.

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Will I like it?

If you were wowed by Ghosts or have been indulging your dark side with the Almeida’s recent Greeks season, Little Eyolf is well worth a watch. The story is admittedly less epic and rich than the previous offerings, but Eyre’s short and not so sweet adaptation is every bit as fraught.

Little Eyolf is playing until 9 January. You can book tickets through the Almeida Theatre’s website.


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