Ib­sen play brought back to life


Zom­bies. When a play is called When We Dead Awaken there is some ex­cuse for think­ing the ‘‘Z’’ word. And metaphor­i­cally that could be the­matic.

When We Dead Awaken is the ti­tle of the last play by Nor­we­gian play­wright Hen­rik Ib­sen. Writ­ten in 1899, it is not of­ten per­formed, and a tour­ing theatre group is of­fer­ing lo­cal au­di­ences a rare chance to take it in.

Palmer­ston North ex­pat Ca­tri­ona Tipene and her Welling­ton Theatre group, Walk­ing Shad­ows, is bring­ing the play to The Dark Room for two per­for­mances this week­end.

Read­ing old trans­la­tions of the play, Tipene and direc­tor Iris Hen­der­son dis­cov­ered the heart of what they de­scribe as an en­gag­ing, dra­matic and at times hi­lar­i­ous work. In­volv­ing an artist and his muse, a bear hunter and a se­duc­tive wife, it’s a quirky and haunt­ing piece about free­dom, pur­pose, and what it means to be alive.

The pro­duc­tion us­ing the group’s own trans­la­tion was crit­i­cally ac­claimed dur­ing its pre­miere sea­son at the 2016 Fringe Fes­ti­val.

‘‘It was hailed as ‘a de­sign and act­ing tour de force’, and one of the leads was de­scribed as per­form­ing ‘a mir­a­cle’ [Theatre­view],’’ Tipene said.

When the play was first per­formed in 1900 though, crit­ics hated it - ’’Au­di­ences would rather see in­ter­est­ing life than awo­ken dead’’, pro­claimed one.

By all ac­counts, the Walk­ing Shad­ows pro­duc­tion has quite lit­er­ally in­fused Ib­sen’s 117-year-old play with new life.

Tipene was back here ear­lier this year as a mem­ber of all-fe­male com­pany The Lord Lack­beards, per­form­ing a 400th anniversary Shake­speare trib­ute with Ham­let (which also ap­peared at the PopUp Globe) along­side Jean Betts’ Ophe­lia Thinks Harder in The Dark Room .

On the way to com­plete a North Is­land tour with a re­turn sea­son at Welling­ton’s Bats, the hour-long When We Dead Awaken plays The Dark Room, Satur­day, Au­gust 20 at 7pm, and Sun­day, Au­gust 21 at 2pm and 7pm.

Ca­tri­ona Tipene in a new and ac­claimed trans­la­tion of Hen­rik Ib­sen’s play, ‘‘When We Dead Awaken’’.

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