Samuel Adamson’s adaption of Henrik Ibsen’s great classic “Little Eyolf” is transported to the 1950s, a period which was renowned for stagnation, post war restructure and a profound lack of outgoing sexual vulgarity as was the case in the subsequent decades. Unfortunately, despite some powerful scenes and a whole range of interesting issues and matters touched upon, I left the Cottesloe at the end wondering why they couldn’t have just revived Ibsen’s work.The action begins with the seemingly immaculate Rita Affleck (Claire Skinner) coming to terms with her husband’s return from Scotland, where he has given up on writing about nuclear warfare to spend more time with their disabled son – who we later find out was crippled after being knocked off a table while Rita and Alfred (Angus Wright) were having sex. The lengthy debate which evolves between the two of them culminates in Rita wishing her son Olly (played by either Wesley Nelson or Alfie Field) was dead so she can “have him to herself again”. After Olly is drowned, the relationship between the two of them reaches breaking point and Alfred’s incestuous involvement with his half-sister Audrey (Naomi Frederick) only serves to compound matters.Marianne Elliot’s production is well staged and the actors do their best to bring out the tension and emotion throughout. Claire Skinner convinces us of Mrs Affleck’s sexual longing and desperation at having little intellectual stimulation while Naomi Fredrick’s warm and unassuming Audrey steals the show. However, it is a series of baffling decisions on Adamson’s part that prevent this production from living up to the National’s strong reputation. What induced the extraordinary decision to have an Elvis look-a-like rat catcher involved in Oliver’s death? Why do his parents pity his situation and yet clearly show no inclination to love him at all? Why is the end so unfulfilling, and leaves us with no hope at all? It would be wrong for me to say this production is a complete waste of time. I was drawn into the Affleck’s relationship and the whole travesty of a child dying before his parents is enough to move; but Ibsen’s classic is timeless and why we need a drab, risk-free update set in 1950s England is questionable at best. Next time, just revive “Little Eyolf”.

Reviews by John C Kennedy

The Blurb

A new play by Samuel Adamson from Henrik Ibsen’s Little Eyol