Translated by Jean Arp

I don’t understand Henrik Ibsen at all. I mean the translations (Oxford World’s Classics, by James McFarlane and Jens Arup), so it’s not as though I’m struggling with the language barrier. I feel there should be something there, but I don’t know quite what I’m looking for, so it’s not as though I can make an informed guess and point my inner sight in roughly the right direction. I’m willing to admit that, if editor gives Ibsen stage space, there must be something there.

It all seems so histrionic and over-done; the conversation is melodramatic in a cutesy way; it resembles nothing more than a clever Onion article, playing with registers and smashing a Fotherington-Tomas pastiche rather clumsily against the threatening atmosphere of Strangers On A Train. Like Jean Teasdale having an existential crisis and discovering Anaïs Nin, perhaps.

A Doll’s House reads like a joke, its own Woody Allen parody; The Master Builder is Hermann Hesse writing for teenagers, with lashings of unconvincing depth smothered over it as an afterthought; and Hedda Gabler has a spark to it but, apart from the by-numbers exploration of the chains women wear, it doesn’t seem particularly worth its length, unless that’s entirely justified by whichever actress plays the part. In which case: if she were that good then why would you burden her with an Ibsen play?

What is there, there? What’s the glamour that I’m either missing or unintentionally, exceptionally and wholly serendipitously piercing? I’m not that perceptive, surely.

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