Norwegian drama

Plays

audio A Doll House

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Nora Helmer has everything a young housewife could want: beautiful children, an adoring husband, and a bright future. But when a carelessly buried secret rises from the past, Nora’s well-calibrated domestic ideal starts to crumble. Ibsen’s play is as fresh today as it was when it first stormed the stages of 19th-century Europe.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring:

Calista Flockhart as Nora Helmer

Tony Abatemarco as Dr. Rank

Tim Dekay as Torvald Helmer

Jeannie Elias as Anne-Marie/ Helene

Gregory Itzin as Nils Krogstad

Jobeth Williams as Mrs. Linde

Translated by Rolf Fjelde. Directed by Rosalind Ayres. Recorded before a live audience at the James Bridges Theater at UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in September, 2011.

Featuring: Tony Abatemarco, Tim DeKay, Jeannie Elias, Calista Flockhart, Gregory Itzin, JoBeth Williams

video A Doll’s House (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

Henrik Ibsen struck an early blow for feminism in 1879 with this liberated tale of a wife who rebels. Juliet Stevenson plays Nora who finally revolts against her husband's perception of her as a doll-wife whose opinions count for nothing.

‘A new, pointedly ideological translation by Joan Tinsdale is both sharp and felicitous…Ibsen is served brilliantly’ New York Times.

‘Exceptionally acted’ L. A Times

Credits:

Director: David Thacker; Producer: Simon Curtis; Starring: Juliet Stevenson, Trevor Eve, Geraldine James, Patrick Malahide and David Calder.

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

A Doll's House (trans. McGuinness)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Nora Helmer, wife to Torvald and mother of three children, appears to enjoy living the live of a pampered, indulged child. But as her economic dependence becomes brutally clear, Nora’s acceptance of the status quo undergoes a profound change. To the bewildered Torvald, himself caught in the tight web of a conservative society which demands that he exert strict control, Nora comes to see that the only possible true course of action is to leave the family home.

A Doll’s House (trans. Meyer; Student Edition)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

This Student Edition of A Doll's House provides a wealth of scholarly information, annotation and background to aid the study of Ibsen's seminal play.

The slamming of the front door at the end of Ibsen’s electrifying play shatters the romantic masquerade of Nora and Torvald’s marriage. In their stultifying and infantilised relationship, they have deceived themselves and each other into thinking they are happy. But Nora’s concealment of a loan she had to take out for her husband’s sake forces their frivolous conversation to an irrevocable crisis, until Nora claims her right to individual freedom.

Ibsen’s 1879 play shocked its first audiences with its radical insights into the social roles of husband and wife. His portrayal of his flawed heroine, Nora, remains one of the most striking dramatic depictions of late-nineteenth century woman.

This version is translated by Michael Meyer, and was first performed in 1964 at the Playhouse, Oxford.

A Doll's House (trans. Stephens)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The slamming of the front door at the end of Ibsen’s delicate and electrifying play shatters the romantic masquerade of the Nora and Torvald’s marriage. In their stultifying and infantilised relationship, they have deceived themselves and each other into thinking they are happy. But Nora’s concealment of a loan she had to take out for her husband’s sake forces their frivolous conversation to an irrevocable crisis, until Nora claims her right to individual freedom.

Ibsen’s 1879 play shocked its first audiences with its radical insights into the social roles of husband and wife. His portrayal of his flawed heroine, Nora, remains one of the most striking dramatic depictions of late-nineteenth century woman.

This version is translated by Olivier Award-winning playwright Simon Stephens, and was first performed at the Young Vic, London on 29 June 2012

audio An Enemy of the People

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

When a small town relies on tourists flocking to its baths, will a report of dangerously polluted waters be enough to shut them down? Henrik Ibsen weighs the cost of public health versus a town’s livelihood in An Enemy of the People.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast recording, featuring: Richard Kind, Gregory Harrison, Rosalind Ayres, Emily Swallow, Josh Stamberg, Tom Virtue, Alan Shearman, Alan Mandell, and Jon Matthews. Additional voices by Sam Boeck, William Hickman, Adam Mondschein, Julia Coulter, and Jeff Gardner. Directed by Martin Jarvis.

Includes an interview with Joel K. Bourne, Jr., former senior environment editor for National Geographic, on man-made environmental disasters, climate change, and the state of the world's water supply.

An Enemy of the People is part of L.A. Theatre Works’ Relativity Series featuring science-themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.

Featuring: Rosalind Ayres, Gregory Harrison, Richard Kind, Alan Mandell, Jon Matthews, Alan Shearman, Josh Stamberg, Emily Swallow, Tom Virtue. Additional various voices by Sam Boeck, Julia Coulter, Jeff Gardner, William Hickman, Adam Mondschein

An Enemy of the People (trans. Hampton)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.

Dr Stockmann attempts to expose a water pollution scandal in his home town which is about to establish itself as a spa. When his brother conspires with local politicians and the newspaper to suppress the story, Stockmann appeals to a public meeting - only to be shouted down and reviled as 'an enemy of the people'. Ibsen's explosive play reveals his distrust of politicians and the blindly held beliefs of the masses.

Christopher Hampton's version of Ibsen's classic was first staged at the National Theatre, London, in 1997.

An Enemy of the People (trans. Lenkiewicz)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Power. Money. Morality. In a tight knit community a shocking discovery comes to light and threatens the lifeblood of the town. Truth and honour are pitched against wild ambition and corruption in Ibsen's emotional maelstrom.

Rebecca Lenkiewicz's version of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People premiered at the Arcola Theatre, London in April 2008.

(the fall of) The Master Builder  

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Halvard Solness has arrived at the pinnacle of his career. He has just been awarded the prestigious Master Builder award, his beautiful wife still loves him, his beautiful secretary still flirts with him and Prince Charles is coming to open his new building tomorrow. Then a knock at the door propels Solness’ past into everyone’s future. The only way is down.

Zinnie Harris’s contemporary take on Henrik Ibsen’s classic, The Master Builder, premiered at West Yorkshire Playhouse in September 2017.

Ghosts (adapt. Bullmore)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Ghosts is Ibsen's formidably realistic play about the effects of previous generations on the young, a stinging satire on contemporary Norwegian society and morality, and a haunting tragedy that, more than a century since it premiered, still retains its power to shock.

Osvald Alving has returned from Paris to his mother's home, carrying with him a dreadful secret. His mother's delight at having him home soon turns to horror and grief. The corruption that she had hoped to spare him from when sending him away from the influence of his depraved father has in fact infected his whole body in the form of syphillis.

In Mrs Alving and her son's distrust of conventional religion and mores and Oswald's anguish with life, Ibsen created a thoroughly modern and provocative work. It created widespread outrage and shock when first produced in 1881.

This translation was first presented by the Gate Theatre, London, in a new version by Amelia Bullmore, directed by Anna Mackmin, in January and February 2007.

Ghosts (trans. Lenkiewicz)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Norway, 1881. Mrs. Alving is ecstatic when her son Osvald visits after many years abroad. He has returned to celebrate the heroic memory of his dead father. But within hours of Osvald's homecoming his mother is forced to unearth the past and reveal its terrifying ghosts.

Rebecca Lenkiewicz's version of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts, or Those Who Return, premiered at the Arcola Theatre, London, in a co-production with ATC in July 2009.

Hedda

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lucy Kirkwood's version of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler relocates his nineteenth-century heroine to 21st-century Notting Hill. It was first performed at the Gate Theatre, London, on 21 August 2008.

Hedda, still mourning the father she adored, returns from honeymoon with a husband she doesn’t love, to a flat they can’t afford and a pregnancy she doesn’t want. Trapped by her past and terrified by her future, bored by her life but too cowardly to walk away from it, she finds herself caught between three men. Ultimately, something has to give.

The Gate Theatre premiere was directed by Carrie Cracknell and designed by Holly Waddington, with a cast including Cara Horgan as Hedda and Tom Mison as her husband, George.

video Hedda Gabler (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

Ibsen's classic story of a woman who sets out to destroy her husband and his smug, middle-class attitudes, but instead finds herself having to make a grave decision. This television production is related to the 1991 Abbey Theatre, Dublin production which transferred to the West End. Fiona Shaw had played the lead role in that production which was also directed by Deborah Warner.

Credits:

A BBC production in association with WGBH Boston. Director: Deborah Warner; Writer: Henrik Ibsen; Producer: Simon Curtis. Starring: Fiona Shaw (Mind Games), Brid Brennan, Donal McCann (The Serpent's Kiss), Stephen Rea (The Crying Game), Nicholas Woodeson (The Avengers).

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

Hedda Gabler (trans. Friel)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Hedda Gabler returns, dissatisfied, from a long honeymoon. Bored by her aspiring academic husband, she foresees a life of tedious convention. And so, aided and abetted by her predatory confidante, Judge Brack, she begins to manipulate the fates of those around her to devastating effect.

Brian Friel's version of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler premiered at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, in September 2008, to celebrate the theatre's birthday, eighty years after the Gate's inaugural production of Ibsen's Peer Gynt.

Hedda Gabler (trans. Meyer)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Hedda Gabler is a hard and brilliant tragedy on the purposelessness of life, and a comment on the difficulty of finding personal fulfilment in the stifling world of late nineteenth century bourgeois society, particularly for women.

The eponymous Hedda is an electrically complex woman bored to death by her suburban life. Recently married to George Tesman, an academic happily absorbed in his obscure research, she returns from their honeymoon to a handsomely furnished house and a meaningless existence. In the drawing room, with an insidious judge, a wayward visionary writer and his loyal wife, she impulsively creates a dark, mercurial, anxious drama.

Ibsen wrote Hedda Gabler in Munich in 1890 shortly before his return to Norway. The play initially met with universal condemnation and misunderstanding. This translation was first performed in 1960 at the 4th Street Theatre, New York.

John Gabriel Borkman (trans. Eldridge)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A scorching indictment of nineteenth century capitalism, Ibsen’s penultimate play paints a devastating picture of selfish ambition.

John Gabriel Borkman paces alone in an upstairs room. Downstairs, his wife Gunhild waits for their son to vindicate the family name. They have lived on separate floors for eight years, following Borkman’s imprisonment for fraud on an enormous scale. Gunhild’s twin sister Ella, who was also in love with Borkman, arrives – she is dying, and comes to lay her claim to Erhart, the nephew whom she brought up during Borkman’s incarceration.

The atmosphere is impossibly suffocating, ready to crack, and the contest over the affections of the reluctant Erhart brings the submerged conflict screaming on to the stage. John Gabriel Borkman is a work of cold poignancy etched with comedy, a portrait of men and women who have nothing left to lose.

This version, translated by David Eldridge, premiered in 2007 at the Donmar Warehouse, London.

The Lady from the Sea (trans. Eldridge)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Ibsen's lyrical and still startlingly modern masterpiece vibrantly explores the constrained social position of women. When the lighthouse keeper's daughter Ellida meets the widower Dr Wangel, she tries to put her long-lost first love far behind her and begin a new life as a wife and stepmother. But the tide is turning, an English ship is coming down the fjord, and the undercurrents threaten to drag a whole family beneath the surface in this passionate and sweeping drama. Ellida must choose between the solid and reliable values of the land and the fluid, mysterious and frightening attraction of the sea.

David Eldridge's translation is subtle, faithful and sensitive to Ibsen's language, and makes this classic play accessible to the English reader without compromising any of the original's intensely poetic and atmospheric tone. This version of The Lady from the Sea was first performed in 2010 at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

Mrs Affleck

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

I know. No country matters. Not in the kitchen.

Not on a Sunday. Not in England.

After six lonely weeks with nobody but her disabled boy for company, Rita Affleck, wealthy, beautiful and consumed by jealous love, welcomes home her husband Alfred. But, far from the passionate reunion she so craves, there is only torment as Alfred's possessive half-sister arrives, and he announces his great revelation.

I want things how they were ... My perfect poet ...

1945, one afternoon in London - on the floor,

every last undiluted drop of you.

Taking Ibsen's Little Eyolf as the inspiration for a passionate and tragic tale of obsessive love, set in 1950s England, Samuel Adamson's Mrs Affleck opened at the National Theatre, London, in January 2009.

Pillars of the Community (trans. Adamson)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Calamity strikes when Bernick's business prowess and pristine reputation are threatened by the revelation of a long-buried secret. Desperate to dodge exposure in the kowtowing local community, Bernick devises a pitiless plan which, by a shocking twist of fate, risks the one life he holds dear.

This rarely performed thriller is set amid a society struggling against the rush of capitalism, the lure of America and the passionate beginnings of the fight for female emancipation.

Samuel Adamson version of Pillars of the Community premiered at the National Theatre, London, in October 2005.

The Wild Duck (trans. Eldridge)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Enthralling and unsettling, The Wild Duck is a play of keen psychology and absolute truth.

Gregers Werle, the son of a wealthy businessman, is an uncompromising idealist, and invites himself into the house of Hjalmar Ekdal, his childhood friend. His intention is to free the Ekdal family from the mesh of lies on which their contented lives are based: Gregers can see delusion, fantasy, and deep-seated deception surrounding Hjalmar, his father, his wife Gina, and his daughter Hedvig. But Gregers drowns the family even as he is trying to raise them up, his well-meaning investigations shredding the lies they have told themselves in order to live. The Wild Duck’s title is taken from the wounded bird which is nursed and kept in the attic by Hedvig, an acute symbol of resistance to reality which is the crux of this rich and piercing play.

The Wild Duck was published in 1884 and premiered in 1885 at Bergen in Norway. This version by David Eldridge opened in 2005 at the Donmar Warehouse, London.

At the dawn of the twentieth century Norway had two national theatres: Den Nationale Scene in Bergen (founded 1876) and the Nationaltheater in Christiania (later Oslo), which opened in 1899. Construction of the monumental Nationaltheater, on a prime plot between the university and the parliament, was funded by the emerging middle class of bankers, merchants and lawyers. Both of these theatres are still in operation. There were also theatres in such coastal cities as Kristiansand, Arendal, Stavanger and Trondheim; but they were used mainly by amateur groups or sporadically by touring companies.

In 1913 Arne and Hulda Garborg founded Det Norske Teatret in Oslo. It was dedicated to furthering the cause of the minority, rural language, Nynorsk, and to presenting themes and characters thought to be specifically 'Norwegian'. Despite its nationalist and rural roots, it quickly became Norway's most international theatre, often presenting challenging new plays from abroad, occasionally guest-directed by some of Europe's finest directors.

The history of Norwegian theatre since the Second World War has been marked by a high degree of decentralization and increasing subsidies. As part of the 'rebuilding' of the country in the postwar era, the ruling Labour party formulated an aggressive programme to strengthen the arts. Theatre companies in Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger were given regular subsidies, thus ensuring their survival. A national touring company, Riksteatret, was founded in 1948, and a school for actors was opened in 1953. (Since 1980 the school has also had a programme for directors.)

At the end of the century there were seven major theatre companies in Norway's five largest cities, and professional or semi-professional companies in eight smaller towns. Of particular note is the Sami (Lapp) theatre in Kautokeino, Beaivvas. All these companies are heavily subsidized, with 60–90 per cent of revenue coming from local and national funding. There is far less corporate sponsorship than in English-speaking countries, and private donations are very rare. Each year these theatres sell about 1.3 million tickets in a country of 4.2 million people.

All the government-funded theatres have permanent companies (except for three of the smaller regionals). The actors' union has achieved a measure of influence in questions of repertoire and casting. The ensemble system is often accused of fostering stagnation, but perhaps because it works against typecasting, the level of artistic achievement in acting is consistently high. Since the 1970s the notion of a 'dialect-free' stage speech has been eroded and young actors typically strive to retain some of their local dialect.

Norwegian theatre has become highly international. Seeing a new play most often means seeing a recent foreign play in translation, and theatres are quick to pick up on new trends and authors abroad, particularly in the English-speaking world. Foreign directors working in Norway have also provided new impulses; they include Silviu Purcărete (Romania), Gábor Zsámbéki (Hungary), Krystyna Skuszanka (Poland), Sam Besekow (Denmark), John Barton (England), Jan Hâkanson (Sweden) and Jacques Lasalle (France). The importance of new Norwegian plays has declined steadily since Ibsen's day, and by the end of the century there seemed to be less good, new writing being produced in Norway than in other countries with comparable theatre activity. Three significant writers earlier in the century were Nordahl Grieg, Oskar Braaten and Helge Krog. Their works are occasionally revived. Of contemporary playwrights, Klaus Hagerup, Terje Nordby, Julian Garner, Cecilie Løveid and others have written consistently interesting plays. With the emergence of Jon Fosse (b. 1959) as a playwright in 1994 (by which time he had many successful novels and volumes of poetry behind him), Norwegian theatre seems to have found a new voice of international size. His plays have been produced far afield. Writing in Nynorsk, Fosse often presents primal scenes of family life. In Sonen (The Son, 1997), a prodigal son returns from the city to his ancestral farm. The only other characters are his father and mother, and the play concerns the gap that has grown between them. Fosse's plays are written in a tightly controlled, minimalistic and mesmerizing style, filled with ellipses and repetitions of stock phrases signifying a failure to communicate. Many critics have proclaimed his body of plays the finest since Ibsen.

from Michael Evans, The Continnum Companion to Twentieth Century Theatre, ed. Colin Chambers (London, 2002).