Photo credit: Seiya Taguchi
Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House was met with controversy when it premiered in 1879. It led many to question whether the lead character, Nora Helmer, was a heroic feminist, a rapid neurotic or a selfish runaway. When watching this play in 2014 the answer seems to be that she is some of these things and more, as she is a real chameleon who carries this play through lightness and dark with a pretty and grand defiance.
Sport For Jove are the theatre company behind this 2014 production that is adapted and directed by Adam Cook. While the setting remains the same, it is interesting to see that this bold and classic tale is still important and continues to resonate today. Ultimately, it does lift the veil on a world where the powerful and almighty rule, where hypocrites can be explained away if people choose and a woman’s duty is decided by her husband and this translates into him being considered first and foremost and then to their offspring.
Leading the cast is Matilda Ridgway as Nora. Her acting credits include productions of Shakespeare, among other shows and here she plays the complicated but endearing Nora. At times this character is flighty, flirty and childish while at other points she is branded a liar, frivolous and irresponsible. Yet despite this, in the final act she shows the most maturity, intelligence and clarity of any other character.
The man of the manor is Torvald Helmer (Douglas Hansell) who is initially portrayed as the straight-laced voice of reason who is infatuated by his wife. But this love is a strange one and he is later revealed to be unreasonable, jealous and controlling. Their children are Jon and Ivar (performed at this show by Thom Blake and Bill Blake, respectively, who are making their acting debuts). The rest of the cast includes: housekeeper, Helen (Annie Byron); friend, Dr. Rank (Barry French); Torvald’s employee, Nils Krogstad (Anthony Gooley) and visitor, Kristine Linde (Francesca Savige).
This production is a minimal one with only some minor cosmetic changes to the set and little music used throughout. The costumes – like the décor in the Helmer’s apartment – are in keeping with the 19th century setting. The primary focus of this drama is on Ibsen’s amazing and quotable prose. This is the same author who wrote that “Men and women don’t belong in the same century” and Nora’s own character describes herself as being treated like a doll by her father and husband, which is the inspiration behind the play’s title.
A Doll’s House is a powerful and classic drama that has a slow set-up but comes to a rising crescendo in the final act. The characters are detailed, complex and human and are explored in great detail and with exceptional clarity and intelligence. A Doll’s House manages to do and say an awful lot with few accoutrements and will stay with you after leaving the theatre, as you’re left asking some big questions. In short, it’s brilliant.
Originally published on 24 July 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/sydney/a-dolls-house-seymour-centre-performances-until-august-2nd
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