John Voth and Niki Brown United Players
Rosmersholm by Henrik Ibsen

Dates and Venue 1 - 24 April 2011, 8pm | Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery St, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

By far, this has been the best poduction I've seen by United Players. The actors were flawless in their delivery of lines, and the set design was simple yet extremely beautiful. I won't be surprised if Jessie award winner Sarah Rodgers will get another award for directing this Ibsenian classic, as well as the technical production staff for this magnificent production.

In her programme notes, Artistic Diector Andree Karas praises Rodgers for her "energy and freshness". Indeed, in this new translation by Mike Poulton, the possible melodramatic flaws that could easily ruin Ibsen's dialogues are almost totally eliminated. Furthermore, when you have a director who is passionate about Ibsen as Rodgers is, a classic like this one certainly draws out a more realistic Ibsenian perspective and makes it more intelligible for a contemporay audience.

In the opening night performance, one could hear a pin drop as John Vothe (Rosmer) and Niki Brown (West) engaged themselves in their dramatic dialogue, especially in the last scene before they take their final leap in an almost Shakesperean Romeo and Juliet tragic ending, an essential aspect of the 19th century Sturm und Drang movement.

The other cast members who were well-chosen by Rodgers for their roles were likewise excellent in the delivery of their characters. Robson Baker (Brendel) was funny in typical self-deprecating Ibsenian black humour; Joel Stephenson (Kroll) as the right-wing politician was dramatically insidious; David Newham (Mortensgaard) as the left-wing radical, oozed out the rebelliousness of youth; and last but not least, Pippa Mackie (Helseth) who gave the final punchline to this play, was perfectly cast as the gossipy yet intuitive servant.

The play was written in 1886, after Ibsen had written Doll's House (1879) and Ghosts (1881), and we can clearly and certainly see the influence of the feminist rebellion in the character of Rebecca West and the "ghost" of the "white horse" symbolizing the traditon and the good name of the Rosmer house, depicted in the play as a pillar of this small Norwegian community.

A special kudos to the production staff, particularly to Marshall McMahen for his set design and Karen Mirfield for her costume design, and naturally, to technical director Kyla Gadiner and Production manager Fran Burnside for this unforgettable mise-en-scene.

© 2011 Ed Farolan