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The timely resonance of Ellida

Monday, 15 March 2021

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Ellida, a lighthouse keeper’s daughter, is living a life of quiet desperation with her husband in a coastal town when a mysterious lover from her past arrives. Will she stay on dry land with her husband or answer the call of the sea?

Director Will O’Mahony describes how Henrik Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea is not unlike the ocean itself: vast, frightening, restorative and, in some ways, infinite.

“The play ebbs and flows, a pattern of statement and erasure,” he explains. “The moment we sense Ibsen declaring something, he seems to give voice to its opposite.”

When Ibsen wrote The Lady from the Sea in 1888, he drew on Norway’s rich sea myths to examine the hypocrisy, lies and social entrapment of his times. Ellida, the heroine of the play, is searching to find freedom in a world that is structured to control her.

These themes also lie at the heart of the influential playwright’s better-known masterpieces, A Doll’s House, Ghosts, The Wild Duck and Hedda Gabler.

O’Mahony is directing WAAPA’s 3rd Year Acting students in Ellida, a 2018 adaptation of The Lady from the Sea by May-Brit Akerholt, who is renowned for her translations of the European classics for Australian theatre.

Ellida will be performed in WAAPA’s Roundhouse Theatre from Thursday, 26 March to Wednesday, 31 March, with a matinee on Saturday, 27 March.

O’Mahony, a WAAPA graduate and multi award-winning actor, believes Akerholt’s fresh adaptation highlights the relevancy of Ibsen’s play to a modern world still struggling to define coercive control and patterns of entrapment for women.

“The gendered power differentials Ibsen reveals are unsettling,” says O’Mahony. “The subtle moments of coercion disguised as favour points to a world in need of urgent reform.

“Seen in this light, the heroism of Ellida and the other female characters in this play, their acts of resistance, big and small, are powerful and moving.”

The Lady from the Sea, and its modern transformation as Ellida, explores questions of freedom and responsibility, conformity and independence, emotion and rationality – issues currently playing out on Australia’s political stage.

In this, the play proves as startlingly relevant as when Ibsen penned it over a century ago.

For all venue and performance details, please visit the Ellida performance web page.

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