About the Production of Rosmersholm
by Vivien Oye and Eileen Paige
Henrik Ibsen’s Rosmersholm was performed in London at the Opera Comique Theatre on May 31st, 1893. It was one of the Independent Theatre Society’s productions that appealed to its target audience’s intellect rather than emotions.
The Opera Comique opened in 1870 and was located in London’s East Strand. Since its humble beginnings of being hastily constructed as well as having long narrow tunnels, it earned the nickname of the Theatre Royal Tunnels. Despite being beautifully decorated, The Opera Comique was unpopular with audiences due to its French name. It went on to premiere comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan after 1877. However, this success ended shortly after manager Richard D’Oyly Carte decided to move his productions to another theatre, and after that the Opera Comique was demolished in 1902. Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, who wrote Rosmersholm in 1886, named its characters after his family and friends. His difficult childhood and the experience of self-exile from Norway are reflected in his style of realism. According to Victorian Secrets, this Ibsen performance was directed by Elizabeth Robins, who also played the challenging role of Rebecca West. She also produced and starred in the role of Hedda in Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, making her a popular figure on the West End stage. Subsequently, she formed the New Century Theatre with her lover William Archer to continue producing not-for-profit productions of Ibsen.
The role of Rosmer was played by Lewis Waller, who was also well known for his versatility in Ibsen roles and for playing Lord Illingworth in Oscar Wilde’s A Woman Of No Importance. Mr. Athol Forde played the role of Kroll. Mr. Bernard Gould, who illuminated the role of Ulric Brendal, was also a famous English illustrator known as John Bernard Partridge. Mr. Scott Buist, who played the editor Mortensgaard, contributed to the successful role of Tesman in Hedda Gabler. Lastly, Miss Frances Ivornato played the part of Madame Helseth. The actors honed their craft through their acting techniques, receiving positive feedback from both audience and reviewer. Mr. Lewis Waller concealed his tough personality on stage, to deliver the gentle sincere persona of Rosmer. In the role of Ulric Brendal, Mr. Bernard Gould, the artist, played himself. His humor and hint of poetry gave Brendal’s character much originality in the production. Mr. Athol Forde’s experience in playing Kroll at the Vaudeville two years ago was evident. Mr. Scott Buist and Miss Frances Ivornado were both convincing on stage as Mortensgaard and Madame Helseth. The most challenging part in this production was executed with intelligence by Elizabeth Robins. Although the reviewer did believe there was still room for Robins to master the finer details towards the character of Rebecca, he still considered it her best work on stage. Overall, the Opera Comqiue Theatre production of Rosmersholm, captured the attention of a large enthusiastic audience, effectively engaging them through an intellectual standpoint through this performance.
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The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art. Vol. 81. N.p.: J. W. Parker and Son, 1896. 576. Print.
“Ibsen’s “Rosmersholm” In London.” The Manchester Guardian 1 June 1893, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian and The Observer ed., Pg. 5 sec.: 1. Print.
Simkin, John. “Elizabeth Robins.” Spartacus Educational. N.p., Sept. 1997. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.
“Robins’s Major Ibsen Performances and Directing Roles.” Victorian Secrets. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.
“Illegitimate Drama and Rickety Twins: The Theatres of the Strand.” London Metropolitan Archives. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.
“Henrik Ibsen Biography Playwright (1828–1906).” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2015.