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RADA presents Ibsen’s “The Lady from the Sea”

There is a treasure right opposite from our beloved uni. The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts puts on great plays; if you haven’t seen one yet, go check it out and follow the first steps on stage of the next Joan Collins or Anthony Hopkins.

By Dorina Marlen Heller

Still from RADA's "Lady From the Sea", by ibsen. Source: RADA
Still from RADA’s “Lady From the Sea”, by ibsen. Source: RADA

I must say I completely underestimated RADA. And my guess is that I am not alone in this. For many of us RADA is that “posh drama school” opposite from our common grounds, where you usually see the “cool” actors in black clothes hanging out. That they frequently put on great and extremely professional shows might come as a bit of a surprise to some.

For example, staging Ibsen’s “The Lady from the Sea” is a challenging, but rewarding project. This play tells the story of Ellida, a woman feeling anxious and claustrophobic, trapped in a rational marriage and a conservative, oppressive society. She is one of “these people” who, having grown up at a lighthouse, live the life of the sea in “waves and tides”, as her husband, the kind, but overly prudent, Dr. Wangel puts it. They have been married for two years, living with his two grown-up daughters in an idyllic small, Norwegian town. But Ellida never let go of her first love, a mystical sailor who before his hasty departure asked her to wait for him. Now he’s returned and Ellida has to choose, only that the choice seems to be taken away from her. Her husband is bound to keep her small and under control, afraid of seeing his illusion of a happy, domestic future crushed.

Ibsen’s play is a brilliant and sharp analysis of his contemporary society. It tells a story about oppressed women, accepting responsibility and the struggle for (individual) freedom – could it be any timelier? This is a play about letting go and trying to protect the people you love from themselves; only, this never works out and setting them free is the only way to keep them. That is what Ellida’s husband has to learn the hard way. Director Iqbal Khan found his “intellectual journey” to be “the most heroic gesture” in the “whole play”. And “The Lady from the Sea” teaches us that sometimes it’s not enough to ban the phantoms of your past from your mind. You have to physically face them.

Having said that, the actors were very committed to their characters and quite exceptional in their performances. The staging and costumes were so professional that it seemed hard to believe that you actually were in a drama school, watching actors who still are in training. At RADA they obviously take their job very seriously. So I can only warmly recommend that you have a look at one of their productions yourself and who knows – one day you might be able to say that back then you saw the Anthony Hopkins and Joan Collins of tomorrow rise. So be sure to get your programme signed…  


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