"Little Eyolf revolves around a desire to live fully and the need to connect deeply with others." We welcome back Liliana Dalton and Burning House (Caligula) to Explosives Factory at Theatre Works this December with their new production of Ibsen's classic Little Eyolf.
Q: What was your initial response after your first read of Henrik Ibsen's Little Eyolf?
A: The first thing I felt was a sense of intrigue about the characters and their different perspectives and I remember feeling quite a bit of empathy towards each of them, even though they had very different ways of dealing with situations. I remember being quite amazed at how much Ibsen fitted into each scene and at the clever way he builds the story. I felt quite a mix of discomfort and gratitude as it was almost like I was in the house or garden listening in on a very private conversation. At the end of my first reading I was both reflective and fearful of how much there is to unpack in the play, which made me think, ‘Oh gosh, I have to give this a go!’
Q: How do you approach your character-building process?
A: I like to really dig into the script by analysing the character’s speech and how their movement may be described, as well as how other characters may describe them and what clues this could give about their personality, past experiences and how they relate to people. If it’s a historical piece I enjoy researching life in the period so I can start building the world around the character. I love having conversations with castmates and the director about the character’s history and their connections with other characters that have led them to this point. After that I like to be open to experiment quite a bit in rehearsal. I enjoy doing improvisations around situations a character may have experienced before the play to learn how a character might react to events in the play. I’m quite a physical performer, so I like to experiment and allow my body, along with the text, to guide me in my characterisation.
Q: What can you tell us about the themes explored in this play and how they will resonate with a contemporary audience?
A: I think everyone will take something slightly different from the play, but for me a lot of Little Eyolf revolves around a desire to live fully and the need to connect deeply with others. Considering the last few years, I think those themes could resonate quite strongly with audiences as the pandemic has often forced us to reconsider what is important to us and how and when we might like to share that with others. I think some of the big themes in the play are responsibility, family, grief and love in its different forms, so there are quite a few universal themes in Little Eyolf which will hopefully resonate with audiences and maybe provide some catharsis too! Although there is a lot of sadness in the play, I think there are rays of hope in there and opportunities for the audience to reflect on their own experiences of the themes. Q: Last time we saw you at Theatre Works was in Burning House's production of Caligula. What did you most enjoy about working on that production and what are you looking forward to exploring in Little Eyolf?
A: I loved doing my first show at Theatre Works and really enjoyed working as part of a big ensemble on Caligula and learning so much from the whole team. I loved the challenge of playing a character who is so complex and required so much emotional intensity. It was rewarding working on a classic play that really dug into what it is to be human and wasn’t afraid to ask some big questions. I was quite nervous taking on a role like Caligula, but director Rob Johnson and the whole team at Burning House made it such a fulfilling experience. Jumping into Little Eyolf, I’m so excited to work on my first Ibsen play and to explore each of the character relationships within it. I look forward to the challenge of working more in the world of naturalism and digging into the little details in conversations. I’m also excited to perform at The Explosives Factory for the first time!
Q: If you could capture the essence of Little Eyolf with a song or piece of music, what would it be?
A: Ooh great question! This could change throughout the rehearsal process but the first song that comes to mind is To Build a Home by The Cinematic Orchestra and Patrick Watson. I feel like the themes of hope, loss and acceptance really intertwine with the themes of the play and the idea of building and sharing a life with someone is very pertinent. I think the line ‘I held on as tightly as you held onto me’ encapsulates Little Eyolf quite strongly. I’d love to hear what music and other art works people are reminded of after they’ve seen the play! LITTLE EYOLF By Burning House