Brand

Play by Henrik Ibsen. Brand, a priest, is the most devout follower of God. Steadfast of will, he will not condone any form of moral compromise, whatever the circumstances. His sole objective is to serve God and save the souls of his people. So powerful are his convictions, he rejects his dying mother and forbids his wife from mourning their son. Is the road of extreme sacrifice and suffering truly the road to God and ultimate salvation?

The penultimate act, Act 4, of Brand - when Brand gets his wife Agnes to give their dead child's clothes to a gypsy woman - was premiered on the West End stage as a 'double-bill' with four performances each of Rosmersholm and The Master Builder during a two-week season of Ibsen, which run from Monday 29 May through to Saturday 10 June 1893 at the Opera Comique Theatre (now demolished, approximate site of Australian High Commission in Aldwych/Strand). The 12-performance Season also included four performances of Hedda Gabler. The cast for Act 4 featured Bernard Gould (AKA Bernard Partridge) as 'Brand', Elizabeth Robins as 'Agnes', and Frances Love as 'Gypsy Woman'. During the Season, Bernard Gould played 'Ulric Brendal' in Rosmersholm; Frances Love as 'Aline Solness' in The Master Builder; and Elizabeth Robins played the lead female roles in each play, namely, 'Rebecca West', 'Hilda Wangel', and 'Hedda Tesman'.

The play was then finally fully staged in London at the Court Theatre in Sloane Square for two performances only in 1912. It was then not presented in London until nearly 50 years at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith for a limited season, and which was broadcast on BBC television a couple of months later. The West End Premiere took place in 1991 at the Aldwych Theatre.

London Premiere 1912 with H A Saintsbury at the Court Theatre

London Revival 1959 with Patrick McGoohan at the Lyric Hammersmith

London Revival 1978 with Michael Bryant at the NT Olivier Theatre

West End London Premiere 1991 with Roy Marsden at the Aldwych Theatre

1st West End London Revival 2003 with Ralph Fiennes at the Haymarket Theatre

Henrik Ibsen's other West End London plays include A Doll's House, The Master Builder, Hedda Gabler, Rosmersholm, and Ghosts.


Original London Production 1912 with Harry Arthur Saintsbury

10 and 11 November 1912 at the (Royal) Court Theatre

Translated by William Wilson.

The cast featured Harry Arthur Saintsbury as 'Brand', Phyllis Relph as 'Agnes', Mignon Clifford as 'Gerd', Stuart Musgrove as 'Ejner', and A Clifton Alderson as 'Mayor', with Basil Gunter as 'Clerk', Inez Bensusan as 'Gipsy', Norman MacOwan as 'Doctor', and Reginald Rivington as 'the Dean'.

Directed by W G Fay.

Presented by the Play Actors for two performances only.


London Revival 1959 with Patrick McGoohan

Opened 8 April 1959, Closed 30 May 1959 at the Lyric Hammersmith

Translated by Michael Meyer.

The cast featured Patrick McGoohan as 'Brand', Dilys Hamlett as 'Agnes', Enid Lorimer as 'Brand's Mother', Olive McFarland as 'Gerd', Harold Lang as 'Ejnar', and Patrick Wymark as 'Mayor', with Robert Bernal as 'a Guide'/'Sexton', Anita Giorgi as 'Gypsy Woman', Peter Sallis as 'Doctor'/'Provost', Frank Windsor as 'Schoolmaster', June Bailey, and Fulton MacKay.

Directed by Michael Elliott, with designs Richard Negri, and lighting by Richard Pilbrow.

Presented by the 59 Theatre Company for a five week season which was extended.

This production was especially filmed with the same cast and broadcast on television on BBC One on Tuesday 11 August 1959.


London Revival 1978 with Michael Bryant

Previewed 14 April 1978, Opened 25 April 1978, Closed 11 July 1978 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre

Translated by Geoffrey Hill.

The cast featured Michael Bryant as 'Brand', Lynn Farleigh as 'Agnes', Patience Collier as 'Brand's Mother', Tamara Hinchco as 'Gerd', Dermot Crowley as 'Einar', and Robert Stephens as 'Mayor', with Anthony Douse as 'a Cleric', Gawn Grainger as 'Schoolmaster', Anna Manahan as 'Gypsy Woman', Peter Needham as 'Sexton', Peter Rocca as 'an Official', Nicholas Selby as 'the Dean', Daniel Thorndike as 'Doctor', Timothy Block, Brenda Dowsett, Jane Evers, Jeremy Ewing, Margaret Ford, Roger Gartland, Martin Howells, Brian Kent, Stanley Lloyd, Peggy Marshall, Marianne Morley, Richard Perkins, Keith Skinner, and Dennis Tynsley.

Directed by Christopher Morahan, with designs by Ralph Koltai, costumes by Gaelle Allen, lighting by David Hersey, music by Harrison Birtwistle, and sound by Susanna Ayliff.

Presented by the National Theatre.


Original West End London Production 1991 with Roy Marsden

Previewed 21 August 1991, Opened 27 August 1991, Closed 28 September 1991 at the Aldwych Theatre

Translated by Robert David MacDonald.

The cast featured Roy Marsden as 'Brand', Kim Thomson as 'Agnes', Gillian Martell as 'Brand's Mother', Susannah Corbett as 'Gerd', Michael Mueller as 'Einar', and Ewan Hooper as 'Mayor', with Mark Blythe as 'Young Man', Robert East as 'the Dean', Anne Kavanagh as 'Schoolmistress', David Lumsden as 'a Guide'/'Boatowner', Yvonne O'Grady as 'Gypsy Woman', Charles Rea as 'Sexton', and Peter Theedom as 'Doctor'.

Directed by Roger Williams, with designs by Bernard Culshaw, lighting by John Bishop, and music and sound by David Sinclair.

A transfer from the Thorndike Theatre in Leatherhead, Surrey.


1st West End London Revival 2003 with Ralph Fiennes

Previewed 29 May 2003, Opened 4 June 2003, Closed 30 August 2003 at the Haymarket Theatre

The Royal Shakespeare Company present Henrik Ibsen's Brand in London starring Ralph Fiennes

Translated by Michael Meyer.

The cast featured Ralph Fiennes as 'Brand', Claire Price as 'Agnes', Susan Engel as 'Brand's Mother', Laura Rees as 'Gerd', Alistair Petrie as 'Ejnar', and Oliver Cotton as 'Mayor', with Alan David as 'Doctor'/'Provost', Jane Guemler as 'Gypsy Woman', Sidney Livingstone as 'a Guide'/'Sexton', Clifford Rose as 'Schoolmaster', Jim Creighton, James Curran, Ian Drysdale, Sarah Everard, Colin Haigh, Jennifer McEvoy, and Karen Traynor. Oliver Golding and Steven Williams shared the role of 'Guide's Son'.

Directed by Adrian Noble, with choreography by Sue Lefton, designs by Peter McKintosh, lighting by Peter Mumford, music by Mia Soteriou, and sound by Mick Pool.

Ralph Fiennes' London theatre credits include the title role of 'Nikolai Ivanov' in Jonathan Kent's revival of Anton Chekhov's Ivanov at the Almeida Theatre in 1997; and 'Romeo' in Declan Donnellan's revival of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in 1986.

Claire Price's West End stage credits include the role of 'Miranda', opposite Derek Jacobi as 'Prospero', in Michael Grandage's revival of William Shakespeare's The Tempest at the Old Vic Theatre in 2003.

Susan Engel's London stage credits include the roles of 'Sybil Birling' in Stephen Daldry's revival of J B Priestley's An Inspector Calls at the Garrick Theatre in 1995; 'Goneril', opposite Brian Cox as 'King Lear' in Deborah Warner's revival of William Shakespeare's King Lear at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre in 1990; and 'Olga' in Jonathan Miller's revival of Anton Checkov's Three Sisters at the Cambridge Theatre in 1976.

"If the words 'symbolic masterpiece' don't have you running for cover, you'll find much to chew on in this mighty drama about a ferocious priest, Brand, set in 19th-century Norway... Weird though this deeply gloomy play is, the hair-cropped Ralph Fiennes - never off stage - rises to its mighty challenge. You can almost see the storm raging inside Brand's head as he castigates himself and his fellow sinners. The most creepy of these is the town's oily mayor, played by Oliver Cotton. Director Adrian Noble's production, though, is let down by a drab and claustrophobic wooden walled set which lacks the visual thrill of the play's setting amid the fiords and glaciers. Still, the fatal avalanche at the end is worth the wait and there are many moments in this stormy saga of sin and retribution which chill the blood." The Daily Express

"Ibsen never intended his sprawling dramatic poem to be performed and there are moments in this version - quite a lot of them - when you rather wish the old boy's intentions had been fully honoured. Brand demands all or nothing of his flock and destroys his own family by misunderstanding the nature of human sacrifice... The way Ralph Fiennes plays the role is so studied and self-conscious that he leaves no room for us to think he is anything but a complete fool whose loveless childhood has justified, in a warped way, his cruelty to those closest to him... Adrian Noble's chilly and cheap-looking production is a commercially funded presentation with an RSC logo, a sort of scandalously RSC-branded Brand that has nothing to do with a great national company. The crowd scenes are scrawny and ludicrous and many of the supporting performances abysmal... Claire Price emotes eagerly as the distraught wife, and Susan Engel and Clifford Rosechip in with effective scenes as the old mother and the craven schoolmaster. Fiennes, however, is so turned in on himself that his concentration leaves him gasping for air as he sinks beneath a ton of embarrassting verbiage and symbolism." The Daily Mail

"Ibsen originally conceived of it as a poem, and it presents the actor or director who is foolhardy enough to tackle it with a daunting challenge. That challenge is handsomely met in Adrian Noble's production. Its success naturally depends far more than anything else on the portrayal of Brand himself, and Ralph Fiennes, who plays him, is on searing form - angry, implacable, contemptuous of weakness, altogether driven. It is a largely monochrome performance, but the rigidity is part of the interpretation... For much of the evening the staging is austere to the point of minimalism, but thanks to Peter McKintosh's design and Peter Mumford's lighting there is a truly apocalyptic feel about the avalanche." The Sunday Telegraph

Brand in London at the Haymarket Theatre previewed from 29 May 2003, opened on 4 June 2003 and closed on 30 August 2003.