(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/22.)
No, this is not the Ödön von Horváth play of the same name. This is actually a retitled version by Mike Poulton of Ibsen's notoriously treacherous last play, When We Dead Awaken, written in 1899 and rarely revived. And, even if I have a few cavils about Poulton's translation, it makes for a powerful evening in James Dacre's highly concentrated, 85-minute production.
Ibsen's real subject in this symbol-heavy play is himself. He embodies his own guilt in the figure of Rubek, an aged sculptor who has achieved world fame at the expense of happiness. But returning to Norway after a long absence with his restless young wife, Maia, he is abruptly reclaimed by the mysterious Irena who was the model for his most famous work. Accused by Irena of sacrificing her love for him to the ideal of pure art, Rubek seeks redemption by suicidally ascending with her to the top of a mist-wreathed mountain.