A powerful, succinct performance from the fledgling theatre company.
Broken Arrow’s third offering seems an odd choice for a young company: Ibsen’s classic is originally set in late-18oos Scandinavia. Director Alexander Curtis’ re-imagined production is brought slightly more into the present, being set in 1960s Britain, but still falls short of the company’s potential to bring something contemporary to the figurative table that is young theatre in Hampshire.
Performed in a repurposed courtroom, the intimate space works well with Curtis’ scaled-down (and brutally cut down) version of the text, focusing on just five of the original eleven characters. Lucy Hughes as leading lady Nora is captivating and confident, and carries the story (which, despite the cuts, still drags in places) with ease. Supporting her is Oliver Bray as overbearing husband Torvild, alongside Catherine Tarrant as downtrodden widow Christine, Joseph Curran as the afflicted Dr Rank and James Forster as desperate, manipulative Nils. In a cast this small, performing in a space as intimate as the courtroom, the scrutiny of each actor from the audience is unforgiving – and hence why Broken Arrow don’t get away with mistakes they might otherwise have done.
While no performance individually is flawed, what lets the production down was the lack of cohesiveness across the cast as a whole. Hughes’ performance was at times over the top – overly musical, overly posed. In an auditorium space, this would have been understandable, necessary even, but in the metres between actor and audience it seemed unnatural. The supporting cast, in contrast, give measured but sometimes underwhelming performances alongside Hughes. Bray never poses a real threat to the exuberant character Hughes creates – vocally, he is intimidating, but stumbling delivery belies any belief that Torvild is intelligent enough to defeat his scheming wife.
Curran’s Dr Rank is by far the highlight, providing some much-needed comedy with perfectly timed delivery as well as a genuine emotional connection when his secret is revealed. Tarrant’s performance should not go un-noted either: she gives a disciplined and watchable portrayal of Christine, and the close proximity to the audience perfectly suits her believable performance.
It is easy to see where the lack of group vision could have arisen: at no point are all five characters on stage together. Given these faults, director Curtis and the company should still be commended for bringing an outdated play into current interest – future offerings from Broken Arrow will not be ones to miss.