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It’s always tricky business: re-imagining the classics for a modern audience, teasing out themes you find relevant for today’s world. Hailing from Norway herself, Maren E. Bjørseth selected The Wild Duck, the famous work by Henrik Ibsen. She clearly aims at one strand within the play, namely the contrast between joyfully living a lie and knowing the truth but sacrificing happiness.
The well-known story revolves around Hjalmar Ekdal, living modestly with his father, wife Gina and daughter Hedvig (who is turning blind). When Gregers Werle, an old friend, returns to their city, he brings with him his insatiable taste for the truth and unveils a secret, meaning disaster for the family: Ekdal’s daughter is actually Werle’s wealthy father’s child (also turning blind, a straightforward implication).
Where the play is rich with symbolism, this production fails to convey any of it with confidence. Starting with a long sequence of eerie electronic music and strobe lighting, which is beautiful but doesn’t seem to serve a purpose other than introducing us into the party where Ekdal and Werle meet, it goes on to set up the situation in Ekdal family’s for quite a long time. They live in a bubble, and this is repeatedly shown through saccharine family hugs and Hjalmar’s childlike wish to invent something new.
The set is a forest of paper trees, which, like the lies that unravel, give way one by one until it allows a view of what lies beyond. This works well, and is thereby one of the few things that do. Balloons are a source of sounds, not least those of gunshots. The inconsistent and often too sketchy acting detracts from the emotional investment you can pour into the production.
The duck from the title is the Ekdal family’s pride and joy: still alive after nearly drowning, they look after it with passion. It also acts as a metaphor for several characters, for instance for Hedvig, who turns out to be adopted just like the animal. When the little girl takes her own life after she sees the devastation that the truth introduces, the family hears a gunshot and think the wild duck is dead. It isn’t; Hedvig is. Sadly, in this case we as an audience care only a tiny bit more about the girl than about the bird.
De Wilde Eend
Photography by Anna van Kooij.
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