“Hollanders bouwen altijd in baksteen”
Simon Stone’s track-record with Ibsen is strong – his adaptation of The Wild Duck was extraordinarily powerful – and so despite my normal reservations with this playwright, I happily booked myself in for his Ibsen Huis (Ibsen House) for Toneelgroep Amsterdam. The play is a new piece of writing but one which takes minor characters from a range of the Norwegian’s dramas and puts them into their own new ensemble, set in the house that Solness built for Hilde Wangel in The Master Builder.
So over three generations, from the 60s to the current day, new cycles of Ibsen-esque family drama play out – lies and loneliness, isolation and infidelity, passion and pain, all the pain of loving and being loved. It’s a dizzying combination, literally so as Lizzie Clachan’s set spins on its axis, and as the shattered narrative is presented to us in fragments. Visually it is clever, especially as it allows for the smoothest of scene changes to be almost cinematically imposed as the focus slides from room to room.
A measure of emotional intimacy is lost this way but there’s also the kind of sterling ensemble we’ve come to expect from this company. Hans Kesting and Aus Greidanus Jr butting heads, Janni Goslinga and Celia Nufaar breaking aching hearts, Bart Slegers and Maria Kraakman extolling a unique kind of parental love. Stone’s writing ultimately lacks the kind of subtlety to compare to the original, this is very much Ibsen-redux, but nevertheless, it’s still quite thrilling to watch. More production pics here.