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Love’s Comedy

Published Tuesday 20 November 2012 at 11:26 by Nick Smurthwaite

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

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.

Production information

Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond upon Thames], November 14-December 15

Henrik Ibsen, Don Carleton (adaptation)
David Antrobus
Orange Tree Theatre
Cast includes:
Mark Arends, Sarah Winter, Stuart Fox, Jonathan Tafler, Julia Watson, Jessica Clark, Amy Neilson Smith, Mark Oosterveen, James Joyce, Rebecca Egan
Running time:
2hrs 35mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014