Anonym anmelder i The Era
«LITTLE EYOLF.»A Play, in Three Acts, by Henrik Ibsen,
Translated by William Archer,
Performed for the First Time in England at the
Avenue Theatre, on Monday Afternoon, Nov. 23d, 1896.
| Alfred Allmers:|
Mrs Rita Allmers:
Miss Asta Allmers:
|Mr COURTENAY THORPE|
Miss JANET ACHURCH
Master STEWART DAWSON
Miss ELIZABETH ROBINS
Mr C. M. LOWNE
Mrs PATRICK CAMPBELL
Ibsenism is at present a drug in the literary market. Public interest in the «Master" is decidedly languid; and the only refuge of the jaded critic is description. But this sanctuary is not one of peace. Our excellent Paris correspondent has often to beat about the bush, to hum and haw, and to twirl his pen between his fingers before beginning one of his succinct scenarios of new plays; and we find ourselves in similar difficulties with respect to the drama which was done at the Avenue on Monday afternoon. But after all why should we fear to deal plainly in our account of Little Eyolf? Surely we need crave no pardon for stating in print what has been spoken on the stage before an audience a great many of whom were ladies?
Alfred Allmers and Mrs Rita Allmers are an ill-assorted couple. He is a crazy, self-torturing, self-conscious being with a deficiency of animalism, and a superfluity of self-consciousness. In Rita the sexual faculty is super-abundant, the reflective subordinate. She says, «I am a warm-blooded being! I dont go drowsing about with fishes blood in my veins." Rita was a rich woman, and Allmers married her partly from pure sensuality, partly from mercenary reasons. The sensuality seems to have died out become «subject to the law of change," as Allmers puts it, and he has struck up a kind of sickly, super-sensual amour with Asta, whom he believes to be his half-sister. Allmers and Rita have a son called Eyolf, who when the play begins is nine years old. He is a cripple. Now the way in which he was injured was in this wise. Rita laid the infant on a table amongst some cushions. Then how shall we put it? there was an épanchement on the part of the married pair. The time of day of the occurrence is not stated, but prosaic persons will be found to wonder why the épanchement was not postponed, at least, until the child was put to bed. As Mr Gladstone put it when «heckled" about Gordon, «actions have reference to time and place." However, in the excitement of the moment, Eyolfs precarious tenure of the table was overlooked. He fell from it to the ground, and became a cripple for life.
Now, observe the perversity of these two married people. Here is Mrs Allmers full of superabundant animalism; here is Allmers deficient in that useful marital quality. For the juste milieu to be reached it would obviously be wise for the husband to rest and recruit himself while the wife took violent physical exercise daily say, on a bicycle. «Instead of which," it is Allmers who goes on a severe walking tour, while Mrs A. remains in idleness at home. Idleness, we know, is the food of love. Well, at last Allmers comes back. Even Rita admits: «He seemed to be tired enough very tired, in fact but, poor fellow, you see he had come on foot most of the way." But what does this inconsiderate woman do? Why, she prepares to «make a night of it." She dresses herself in white, lets down her hair, puts rose-tinted shades over both lamps, and actually «fancy that!" as one of Ibsens husbands would say places champagne on the table. Allmers, however, «isnt taking any," and when Rita becomes amorous he wanders from the point, and babbles of little Eyolfs indigestion. We ask our readers to imagine the effect of such empty twaddle upon a woman of Ritas temperament in Ritas position. She reproaches Allmers as openly as decency will allow, and perhaps a little more so. He philosophically remarks that «years bring a certain change." Rita flies into a passion of jealousy against Eyolf, and just then the news comes that the poor little fellow has been drowned by falling off a quay near the house.
In the next act Allmers becomes more fatuous than ever under the influence of grief. The greater part of the second act is occupied by a sneaking flirtation between him and Asta, who soon reveals to him the fact that she is no relation to him. Obviously this opens possibilities of a divorce of Allmers from Rita and his union with Asta. The latter, however, will have nothing of that sort, and bids him farewell. In the last act she goes away in a steamer, having tardily accepted the hand of her long-time lover Borgheim, a «road-builder;" and, left to themselves, the Allmers agree to go in for philanthropy as an antidote to melancholy reflections.
We have made no mention of the Rat-Wife in the above scenario, because we believe that the introduction of this personage is one of the many «bits of fun" in which Ibsen sly dog indulges at the expense of his worshippers. The Rat-Wife is an old woman who calls on the Allmers to ascertain if they have any vermin of whom they desire to be rid. There are dark allusions in the text to some connection between the death of Eyolf and the visit of this elderly female rat-catcher; but there seems no substantial evidence of her criminality.
We confess to having found Little Eyolf, both in perusal and in performance, very wearisome. The morbidity of the married couple, the flatulent, effeminate egoism of the husband, and the brazen sexuality of the wife oppressed us with a sense of flat melancholy. We tried hard to take an interest in the personages of the piece; we endeavoured to catch the authors drift, to be impressed by his work both utterly in vain; and nothing but a sense of duty nailed us to our stall during the performance of this morbid, unwholesome, and occasionally indecent play.
Stern and full justice was done to the personages by the artists in the cast. Mr Courtenay Thorpe did not spare us a jot of Allmerss weak-mindedness and conceit, and made the «landed proprietor" the most preposterous «poser" and «phraser" possible. To say that Allmers was «sickening" is not equivalent. As the coster said, when the clumsy «swell" upset his barrow, «There aint a word for it!" Miss Janet Achurch enacted Mrs Rita Allmers with her accustomed quaint individuality and vivid expressiveness, and rose to a height of tragic intensity in the scene in which Little Eyolfs death comes to the knowledge of his agonised mother. Master Stewart Dawson represented Eyolf with marked intelligence; and Mr C. M. Lowne was duly joyous and semi-boisterous as Borgheim. Mrs Patrick Campbell, with a wonderful make-up, was weirdly grotesque as the mysterious Rat-Wife, whose «real inwardness" is still, we believe, a matter of dispute between Ibsenian commentators. The text was adhered to with accuracy, with the exception of a few unimportant deviations; and the performance, under the superintendence of Mr G. R. Foss, was smooth and continuous. The matinée was under the direction of Miss Elizabeth Robins, whose Asta Allmers had much of the pleasing but peculiar flavour which is to be detected in all this young lady attempts. There were loud cries for «Archer!" at the conclusion, but the audience were informed from the stage that the translator of Little Eyolf was not in the house.