Waiting for Ibsen at Kingston

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Suzannah. Kingston Parish Hall.

KINGSTON Parish Hall in mid-April might have been built with the intention of staging a bleak, introspective play about the bleak, introspective Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen.

But this play by contemporary Norwegian playwright, Jon Fosse, is not about Ibsen himself. Except there is hardly a line of the play in which he is not mentioned.

If this sounds like a paradox then you would be correct. The Suzannah of the title is Ibsen’s wife. The play might have been titled, ‘The Three Ages Of Woman’. If so, then this too would have been true.

Here Suzannah is seen as ageing widow, concerned young mother, and flirtatious girl. On a sparsely furnished stage, with the furniture initially draped in dust covers, the three actors recall – in singular fashion – their lives lived, or in the young girl’s case the life she hopes to live, with Ibsen. Over and over again his name resonates from their lips. After a while the supper table is laid with three glasses. One for Henrik, one for Suzannah, and one for their son, Sigurd. But no one ever sits down. Everyone is waiting for Ibsen.

Directed with a perceptive touch by Charlotte Tayler, there were finely drawn individual performances from Sue Shephard as The Widow, Marian Hussey as The Mother, and Emily Barlow as The Girl. Although Ibsen’s widow has the dominant role, after all she has already experienced everything the two others, her younger selves, are experiencing for themselves in the earlier years of her life, she is never domineering..

This was a short, thought-provoking and strangely uplifting docu-drama featuring three very different three women, but who are really one and therefore never meet together. Plus one man who is on-stage throughout but never appears. As performed by The Synergy Theatre Studio, a paradox of five-star quality.

Roger Paine