The Lady From The Sea Royal Exchange, Manchester
Royal Exchange theatre goers of a certain age will find it difficult to dispel the memory of Vanessa Redgrave in the role of Ibsen's enigmatic heroine, longing for the freedom she perceives the sea will give her, fearful of the claustrophobic future her life in the fjords will hold.
Neve McIntosh's haunted Ellida may lack some of the usual enigma of the woman faced, as so many of Ibsen's females are, with the ghosts of her past but she makes up for it with her gentle Scottish accent and winsome looks – though a tad more projection wouldn't go amiss.
Haunted by the memory of The Stranger (Bill Ward) - a previous love who comes back to claim her – she is now locked into a marriage with the decent but far from passionate Dr Wangel (Reece Dinsdale) and after losing a child of her own is unable to communicate emotionally with her two step daughters Bolette (Sara Vickers) and Hilde (Catrin Stewart).
Exchange debutante Vickers gives an electrifying performance as the older daughter – no less haunted (by the memory of her mother) and equally trapped, reluctantly accepting the hand of her former tutor, the creepy Arnholm (Jonathan Keeble) in what she fails to see is a cul de sac of an escape route.
Rarely hailed for his humour, Sarah Frankcom's direction of this David Eldridge version of the play from a literal translation by Charlotte Barslund, somehow wrings some truly comic moments from Ibsen.
Paul Kemp's Ballested, the failed actor turned artisan all rounder raises smiles throughout but it is Samuel Collings' doomed Lyngstrand's views on art, artists and women's sacrificial role in supporting their menfolk which brings out the unexpected laughs.
A spartan set, economic use of video seascapes and a hypnotically underplayed soundscape add to a thoughtful revival.
Ends November 6.