The cast of Jermyn Street Theatre’s eagerly awaited UK premiere of Henrik Ibsen’s St John’s Night is to be headed by Olivier Award winning actress Sara Crowe and also includes Louise Calf, Isla Carter, Roddy Maude-Roxby, David Osmond, Danny Lee Wynter, Ed Birch, Harry Napier and Luke Bateman.
The premiere of St John’s Night, which is to be directed by Anthony Biggs, represents a step up in the award winning theatre’s growing reputation for rediscovering and producing lost works by the world’s greatest playwrights.
A fairy-tale comedy, Ibsen's first publicly performed play was commissioned in 1851 by the eccentric violinist Ole Bull for the newly-established National Theatre in Bergen. It is an enchanting tale of mischievous goblins, mismatched lovers and secret inheritances, loosely based on A Midsummer Night's Dream. Exploring themes of cultural inheritance, nationalism and the supernatural that appear more clearly defined in Ibsen's later realist cycle, St John's Night is a riotous and satirical comedy from a writer often associated with Nordic gloom.
Bitingly satirical, when it was first performed St John’s Night held an unflattering mirror up to the faces of Ibsen’s countrymen and was received by critics with offended scorn. The writer’s own reaction to the response was to turn his back on the work and it is unique amongst Ibsen plays in being the only one which he refused to be published during his lifetime. The play remained out of his collected works for years after his death, which goes far to explain why it has not been performed since and has never been seen in the UK before now.
The premiere by Jermyn Street Theatre comes hot on the heels of the critically acclaimed production of Charles Dyer’s 1971 work Mother Adam, another unjustifiably rarely performed play. Jermyn Street Theatre has recently won Fringe Theatre of the Year in The Stage 100 Awards. Increasingly in the ascendance under the stewardship of Gene David Kirk, it is considered to be one of the most exciting venues of its size in the UK. With a commitment to presenting both little performed European and American classics and vibrant new plays and musicals, the theatre has also won recent acclaim with its productions of Ibsen’s Little Eyolf starring Imogen Stubbs, The River Line by Charles Morgan, The Two-Character Play by Tennessee Williams and The Art of Concealment about the celebrated playwright Terence Rattigan. In 2011 Jermyn Street Theatre was nominated for the Peter Brook Empty Space Award. In what is seen as a theatrical coup, the theatre has also recently announced the never seen before stage production of All That Fall by Samuel Beckett, directed by Trevor Nunn and starring Eileen Atkins and Michael Gambon which opens this Autumn.
Anthony Biggs’ production of Ibsen’s Little Eyolf at Jermyn Street Theatre -
'Anthony Biggs directs a tense, claustrophobic production ... Imogen Stubbs' performance almost blows the roof off the theatre'
★★★★ Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph.
'Intense, uncomfortable and over the top. I loved every minute of it.'
★★★★ Neil Norman, Daily Express.