Small Eyolf, Almeida Theatre, London— ‘Harrowing but disjointed’

Jolyon Coy and Lydia Leonard in ‘Little Eyolf'. Photo: Hugo Glendinning©Hugo Glendinning

Jolyon Coy and Lydia Leonard in ‘Little Eyolf’. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

Richard Eyre has an outstanding track record with Ibsen: his earlier two revivals at this address have been an award-winning Hedda Gabler and 2013’s searing Ghosts . With Tiny Eyolf he tends to make it, if you like, a trio of miserable marriages and desperate housewives. But exactly where Ghosts cohered superbly, Small Eyolf proves a trickier prospect. Once again Eyre, in his own adaptation, distils the original to concentrate on the — shockingly honest — emotional journey of the story and its potent mix of naturalism and symbolism. But the result this time is far more hit and miss and despite a brilliant lead in Lydia Leonard’s Rita, it eventually feels rather disjointed and unconvincing.

Where Tim Hatley’s set for Ghosts was a claustrophobic interior, right here it is a bleached wooden veranda overlooking a spectacular fjord landscape, which modifications mood with the shifting clouds and with the equally craggy and pitiless emotional terrain of the play. That neat wooden deck soon becomes both refuge and prison for the central couple Rita and Alfred, trapped in a sexless marriage and plagued with guilt more than their diabled son.

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Sex lurks like a rat beneath the floorboards. Jolyon Coy’s stiff, bookish Alfred is plagued by feelings he daren’t even contemplate for his sister (Eve Ponsonby, deftly charting her character’s journey from devotion to dismay) any desire he had for his wife Rita has burned out, transformed into physical revulsion by the reality that their boy’s injury occurred when they were creating adore. Previously he has buried himself in writing a book, but when he announces that he is henceforth going to devote himself to small Eyolf, Rita’s misery, jealousy and aggravation boil over. In a vicious outburst, she even laments the very existence of Eyolf — only to bitterly regret this when, shortly afterwards, the child drowns.

Leonard is very some thing in this scene: ugly, cruel, pitiful, and suddenly pathetic when she strips off in the hope of seducing her appalled husband. And, following the child’s death, she and Coy rake painfully through the guilt and grief that both join and divide them. There’s a frankness to these exchanges that even now is excruciating, harrowingly delivered by Leonard and Coy.

But for all this, their anguish remains curiously unmoving. Eyre’s stark, spare staging embraces the rawness of the psychological drama. But it can’t overcome the fact that the plot shifts driving that drama typically feel engineered or heavy-handed or make the shift towards redemption at the end fairly ring accurate.

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Section: Arts

Jesse Eisenberg&#039s New Book Gets Seriously Absurd (And A Small Severe)



Jesse Eisenberg's plays include The Spoils and The Revisionist.

Jesse Eisenberg’s plays contain The Spoils and The Revisionist. Victoria Will/Invision/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Victoria Will/Invision/AP

If you have ever observed Jesse Eisenberg’s byline in The New Yorker or on McSweeney’s World wide web Tendency and thought, “Wait, that Jesse Eisenberg?” — the answer is yes.

Eisenberg, greatest-identified as an Oscar-nominated actor, is also a writer — the author of several plays and, now, a collection of comedy writing known as Bream Gives Me Hiccups.

Bream Gives Me Hiccups

The collection’s title comes from a series of faux-restaurant testimonials that open the book, which Eisenberg 1st wrote for McSweeney’s. The critiques — both funny and poignant — are written from the point of view of a young boy whose divorced mother drags him to fancy dinners on her ex-husband’s dime.

Many of the other pieces are heavy with dialogue, like short comedy sketches. “A Post Gender Normative Man Tries to Choose Up a Lady at a Bar” and its gender-flipped counterpart, for instance, consist completely of one particular-sided (and persistent) conversation.

“Some of these stories I’ve performed,” Eisenberg tells NPR’s Arun Rath. “They’re as enjoyable to carry out as they are for me to write.”

And, as Rath and Eisenberg talk about, the collection will also be produced into a Netflix series.

Click on the audio hyperlink above to hear the full conversation.

Interview Highlights

Hear Eisenberg study an excerpt from the Bream Offers Me Hiccups audiobook.

On his theory of what makes issues funny

I start out, with each and every play I’ve written, with all the stories in here, to create the funniest issue I can think of and then it becomes emotional, I guess. Possibly simply because that is how you are educated as an actor. When you are acting in anything, even if it is a comedy, you’re supposed to uncover the emotional truth in it.

So even when I am in a comedy, you finish up trying to uncover … what’s driving a character and it typically has something to do with one thing that is not that funny. And, of course, the juxtaposition of funny context and critical individual dealing with funny context is what makes it funny.

On his story featuring Alexander Graham Bell’s early telephone calls

When I was younger — I was possibly about 10 years old — I heard a joke on Comedy Central which I thought was the funniest thing. [It] was something along the lines of, the comedian said “I set my cell phone ring tone to Beethoven’s Ninth [Symphony],” due to the fact, at the time, cell telephone ring tones had just come out, and a single of the options was a low-cost, MIDI file of Beethoven’s Ninth. And he said, “I wonder if Beethoven, when sitting around writing his ninth [symphony] thought it’s going to play in 500 years and someone’s going to go, ‘Oh Jesus, it really is my mom.’ “

And … so when I was reading about Alexander Graham Bell’s very first phone get in touch with I believed how funny it is that now, we not only take the technologies for granted, but we kind of resent it when somebody calls us, simply because it really is such a burden now compared to the ease with which we can communicate otherwise. So I believed it would be funny to see how rapidly that could possibly devolve. So it is not the first phone call that devolves into boredom, it is the third.

On the inspiration for a piece at the intersection of basketball and conflict resolution

I always believed, how do men and women go to basketball games who are used to conflict resolution when they’re standing with 14,000 other individuals who are screaming for conflict? And what would that person have been like in the Coliseum?

I always feel about that because my dad is such a sweet and peaceful academic, and I usually consider what would my dad have been like? He wouldn’t have been capable to fit in with the Coliseum and the gladiators. What would he have done? There should have been people like that and we by no means hear about that!

Arts &amp Life : NPR