When We Dead Awaken
by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen - When We Dead Awaken

BBC Third Programme

Broadcast: Friday 8th August 1969

Arnold Rubek, a celebrated sculptor, has achieved international fame, mainly because of his masterpiece "The day of Resurrection". He has just returned home after a long stay abroad with his young wife Maja: Their relationship having cooled somewhat.

The play opens outside the Spa Hotel at a watering place on the Norwegian coast. It is an open, park-like space with fountains, shrubs, and clumps of large, old trees. On the left stands a little pavilion covered with ivy and wild vine. In the background is the fjord, stretching right out to sea with tongues of land and small islets in the distance. It is a still, hot summer morning. Professor Rubek and his wife, Maja, are seated in basket chairs beside a covered table on a lawn outside the hotel, having just lunched. Now they are drinking champagne and seltzer water and each has a newspaper.

At this seaside hotel, a mysterious woman in white appears, escorted by a nurse. She will upend their quiet existence.

Ibsen's final masterpiece, "When We Dead Awaken", asks the questions that every artist must fear to face. What is the nature and value of art? What sacrifices--and more important, whose sacrifices--may be forgiven the artist? Is it possible for an artist to be a responsible citizen, a fully engaged human, or does the necessity to stand outside the subject isolate him? But Ibsen goes further: he extends this ruthless inquiry into the nature of sexual attraction. Is it constructive or destructive? Is it Strindberg's dance of death or Shaw's life force? Is it everything, or is it nothing at all?

The last play Henrik Ibsen wrote before he died, "When We Dead Awaken" first public performance was a reading at the Theatre Royal in the Haymarket, London, on December 16th, 1899.

Translated from the Norwegian by Michael Meyer in 1960 and adapted by John Tydeman .

With Ralph Richardson [Professor Arnold Rubek, a Sculptor], Irene Worth [Irene, a Lady Traveller], Barbara Jefford [Mrs. Maja Rubek, Arnold's Wife], Gordon Jackson [Ulfheim,a Country Squire], James Thomason [The Inspector at the Spa Hotel], and Grizelda Hervey [The Nun].

The scenes were set by Charles Simon.

Music composed by John Baker at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

Produced by John Tydeman .

85 min.


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