Former Artistic Director of the State Theatre Company of South Australia, Adam Cook, will be adapting and directing Henrik Ibsen’s classic play A Doll’s House as part of the Seymour’s Reginald 2014 season and in collaboration with the independent theatre company, Sport for Jove. Natalie Salvo spoke to Adam about the production, which opens July 17th…
How would you sum up A Doll’s House in a few sentences?
The Helmers are all set to enjoy a prosperous new life together in their new home. Torvald has been promoted to a senior position at the bank and his wife Nora is thrilled. At last, they can put their financial troubles behind them. But their fragile happiness is shattered by the arrival of an unexpected visitor. As the lies that Nora has told, and the risks that she has taken to protect her husband are exposed, they’re forced to question just how perfect their marriage really is. Now, it seems, only a miracle will set them free.
Playwright, Henrik Ibsen is the most frequently performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare. Do you have a favourite work of his?
I’ve always really loved his intensely focused chamber plays, like The Master Builder, Ghosts, Hedda Gabler, and of course A Doll’s House. These are plays about big themes explored through boldly drawn characters.
What prompted you to adapt/work on A Doll’s House?
Damien Ryan, Artistic Director of Sport for Jove, the company for whom I am directing this production, invited me to choose a play that I would like to do at the Seymour Centre. We looked through the secondary school drama syllabus, wanting to choose a play that students were studying. We wanted to offer them an exciting production of the play, performed as it’s written. So it won’t be a re-write of the original play.
How will your production at the Seymour Centre differ from earlier adaptations of the show? Are you consciously trying to put a modern spin on this play?
I couldn’t yet predict how it will differ. I’ve seen some wonderful productions of the play. But I do know that our audiences will witness some brilliant acting and a riveting storyline. You don’t need to put a modern spin on a play whose concerns are timeless. The themes haven’t dated at all. We’re still facing the same problems, and I think we always will.
Do you have a favourite film or stage adaptation of A Doll’s House? If so, which one and why did you pick this particular one?
I don’t, actually, which is why I have written my own adaptation of the script. Each new production of a foreign-language classic needs a new translation of the text. The production will be set in its original period of the late 1800s, but the language will sound fresh and contemporary.
Journalist Michael Meyer once said that the play is not about women’s rights but rather, “The need of every individual to find out the kind of person he or she really is and to strive to become that person.” Do you agree?
I do. It’s not just the story of a woman, it’s the story of a marriage, of flawed characters in a flawed relationship. Ibsen said that “self-realisation is our greatest task and highest happiness.” He’s right. He’d been accused of being a pessimist, and he was, in that he didn’t believe in the absoluteness of human ideals. But at the same time he was an optimist, believing totally in the ability of humanity’s ideals to grow and to develop.
The Seymour Centre website asks audiences whether Nora Helmer is a heroic feminist, rabid neurotic, or just a selfish runaway? What do you think, is she any of these or something completely different?
I don’t think there’s anything heroic about Nora, and she’s not meant to represent the emancipation for all womanhood. It’s a play about one woman’s awakening to the life-lie she’s been leading. She finds that she is somebody else, and that she wants something else. She’s full of doubts about her relationship with her husband and about her own identity. She doesn’t know what’s right or wrong. She is completely confused, and in order to find clarity, she makes a bold and shocking decision.
Why do you think audiences should come and see A Doll’s House?
It’s such an exciting and suspenseful story, full of ambiguity of character, secrets and surprises. Nora Helmer is a woman of such fascinating contradictions and I think audiences will find her very intriguing indeed.
Is there anything else you would like to tell the AU review’s readers about A Doll’s House?
Please book tickets and support a wonderful independent theatre company, Sport for Jove!
Originally published on 19 June 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/interviews/adam-cook-a-dolls-house-at-the-reginald-theatre
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