BBC Play of the Month: Season 15, Episode 3

Little Eyolf (19 Jul. 1982)

TV Episode  |   |  Drama
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 26 users  
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Emma Piper ...
Timothy Stark ...


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Release Date:

19 July 1982 (UK)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Version of Armchair Theatre: The Rat Wife (1958) See more »

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User Reviews

stiff BBC adaptation of a lesser Ibsen play
17 September 2011 | by (Sydney, Australia) – See all my reviews

I consider Little Eyolf a lesser play by Henrik Ibsen because it lacks the on-stage dynamics of the best of his work. The major dramatic action here occurs off-stage, and themes like incest between brother and sister, and a woman's jealousy of her child for the love of her husband are only briefly touched upon. Equally the character of The Rat Wife is a Gothic idea that is also not exploited, other than perhaps drawing a character in his fascination with her to his death. Another inexplicable choice is that the unhappily married couple that Ibsen often writes about here do not separate in the end, although the separation is repeatedly threatened, which makes the denouement unbelievable.

The production uses large sets although all are interiors. Act 1 features a large living room, and Acts 2 and 3 the exterior of the house which is located by the sea, with a scrim used for the sky. This size, rather than creating claustrophobia for the characters, is used to express their distance from each other, with stilted blocking often portraying them as statues. The set-bound artificial nature of the production is also apparent when off-stage noise is heard twice to suggest the world away from the house. Additionally the dramatic music that accompanies the slides of landscape to introduce each act creates another expectation that is not met, given how dull proceedings are.

Given the lack of action, the text falls back on endless talk, and this puts all the responsibility onto the actors to make it work. Unfortunately, neither Diana Rigg or Anthony Hopkins succeed in overcoming this problem, although both have their moments. Mostly however we are aware of their enunciation and technique, with Rigg also mimicking Hopkins' use of growling in anger. More successful are Emma Piper and Charles Dance in supporting roles, with Piper playing the standard role of woman being pursued by a man she is not in love with.

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