The story concerns the emotional turmoil of Alfred Allmers and his wife Rita. When their crippled child drowns, dark secrets and facts come to the surface. We discover that their son Eyolf, was crippled while Alfred and Rita were making love, which is a cause of great guilt for them both. We also discover that Alfred only married Rita for her money and beauty, not because he loved her. Alfred also has an unhealthy love for his half-sister Asta, verging on incest. This is a powerful deep symbolic play, revealing dark secrets and feelings.
The acting is of the highest quality and is full of passion and emotion. Robert Glenister is Alfred, a writer who, while struggling to write a book, decides all of a sudden to dedicate his life to making his son happy. But has he done this for the right reasons? Robert Glenister puts in probably the best performance of his career, with breathtaking emotion that is believable, powerful and convincing. Joanne Pearce is equally superb, if not better in her performance as Rita, his wife who is very jealous of both her son Eyolf and her husband's half-sister Asta. She plays the obsessive, tortured wife with scary realism and force. Derbhle Crotty as Asta and Damian Lewis as Borgbejm, a engineer who is in love with Asta, both perform fine, but are overshadowed by the brilliance of Glenister and Pearce.
The most symbolic part of the play is the scene with the Rat Wife played by Bridget Turner. It is the Rat Wife's job to hunt down rodents, and when she visits the Allmer's household she asks if there is anything gnawing away in their house! Although the Allmer's keep saying no, the Rat Wife persists on asking if they are sure. Obviously Ibsen is not referring to rats here, but to guilt, secrets and misery!
The play has received favourable reviews from the popular press. NICK CURTIS of THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Adrian Noble's staging is as good as any you are likely to see." JOHN GROSS of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says " Adrian Noble's admirable production reveals it for the masterpiece it is." JEREMY KINGSTON of THE TIMES says it is a "grippingly persuasive drama".
Little Eyolf is a dark and sad play, and if not produced exactly right will bore you silly. However, this production is almost perfect. It will not appeal to everybody, but it is a must for anyone who loves serious theatre with powerful acting.