Why Ibsen’s tale of child loss needs retelling


Fox and Orchid Theatre’s Invi Brenna on the motivation behind bringing Little Wolfie to the Fringe

Image of Why Ibsen’s tale of child loss needs retelling

Why does a 24 year old woman throw everything she’s got (including her flat deposit) at taking a 122 year old play centred around the loss of a child to the Fringe?

I’m struggling with finding the words for this note, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise – death, grief and loss are notoriously hard to talk about.

Doing this play – translating, rewriting, directing, producing, physically making it, writing my master’s thesis on it – is my way of talking about things I am notoriously bad at talking about.

Thankfully, I have never lost a child myself – but I’ve found myself at too many funerals at a complete loss for words in front of a friend’s parents. (And even one would have been far too many.)

In our dramaturgical research, we found that the loss of a child is pretty much the hardest one you can experience, because being a parent is so fundamentally linked to who you are, and it goes against what we perceive as the natural order – parents die first. It hurts, but you are supposed to be at your parents’ funeral at some point, deep down you know that. Even that is difficult to think about. You are never, ever supposed to be at your own child’s funeral.

I’ve yet to think of what to say to any of those parents. Henrik Ibsen and Little Wolfie [Lille Eyolf in the original] doesn’t have any good advice either, per se – but it is a raw look at how loss can manifest, perhaps a cautionary tale or two of what not to do, and maybe a cautious glimmer of hope as well.

I can only hope it gets people thinking and talking.

Our show is part of Death on the Fringe, which itself is part of the Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief campaign whose aim is to “make people aware of ways to live with death, dying and bereavement and help them feel better equipped to support each other through those difficult times.”

Our hearts as a company go out to everyone suffering a loss right now. The losses of children – which are happening on every continent right now – and all other losses, big and small, which need to be dealt with as best we can. Together.

A burden shared might not be a burden halved for good, but an emotional catharsis is like a vent for the built-up pressures of life, and perhaps the words of a long-gone man (whose older brother died when he was a toddler) can do some of the talking for all of us.

Little Wolfie is @ theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall, from Mon 22 – Sat 27 Aug 2016 @ 11:40

This piece was adapted from an original post on Fox & Orchid Theatre’s Facebook page