Ibsen scholars should hurry along to Richmond’s theatre in the round for this little known, rarely produced early curiosity, newly translated and adapted for modern ears and sensibilities by Don Carleton.
Mark Arends (Falk) and Sarah Winter (Swanhild) in Love's Comedy at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond Photo: Tristram Kenton
The comedy of the title is more ironic than side-splitting, since the Norwegian titan was obviously intent on cocking a snook at the conventional perception of love and marriage. His anti-hero, an angry young poet named Falk (Mark Arends), shocks the assembled dignitaries at a weekend party by declaring that their various unions are based on convenience and expediency rather than true love.
The object of Falk’s desire is the beautiful Swanhild (Sarah Winter), who is equally in love with the notion of love, without taking boring old reality into account.
Ibsen originally wrote the whole thing in verse so we should be grateful to Carleton for alternating the verse with a more palatable prose style. Even so there is far too much dreary speechifying, and director David Antrobus would have been well advised to trim some of the excess verbiage.
Though there is little hint here of the master dramatist behind A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler, it does suggest some of the themes to come in his great plays and demonstrates what a free thinker he was. Whether that is enough to tempt people to sit through two and a half hours of non-vintage Ibsen is questionable.