A Doll's House

By Henrik Ibsen
The Capstone Theatre, Liverpool
13th October 2014

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

CAST: Nora Helmer, Felicity Rhys, Torvald Helmer, Adam Redmayne, Kristine Linde/Anne-Marie, Laura-Kate Gordon, Dr Rank/Nils Krogstad/Porter, Christopher Llewellyn

Director Michael Westwood is taking this new UK Touring Theatre production across the length and breadth of the country and if tonight's packed house is anything to go by it will do very well.

Ibsen's play has lost none of it's power to invoke strong emotions since it's premiere in 1878. Love and compassion are severely tested as morality, class barriers, social mores and the conventional constraints of wedlock are worn down by a female's enlightened realisation that things don't have to be that way.

As the play opens domestic goddess, Nora, could not be more happy in her gilded cage. Married to barrister,Torvald Helmer, who is soon to be promoted to the position of bank manager, she has a big house and three children from their eight years together.

The children are never seen and, presumably, in the care of maid Anne-Marie. The future is looking rosy but it was not always this way however. There is a skeleton in the cupboard that will see irrevocable change to the spouses situation, which also impacts on the lives of rest of the characters in the story.

As the play opens a knock on the door heralds old family acquaintance Dr Rank, making one of his many social calls.

Then, in desperation Kristine, an old friend of Nora, turns up having nowhere else to go; meanwhile Torvald is in the process of sacking dishonest solicitor Krogstad and the die is cast.

The past comes back to haunt Nora in the shape of Krogstad, who had arranged a loan for medical treatment to save her husband's life, and her fraudulently signed I.O.U. is still outstanding.

The situation begins to unravel as she tries to help out her friend and get Krogstad off her back, resulting in the Chistmas festive season being shattered. An uncomprehending, domineering and repressive Torvald adds to the psychological torture welling inside his wife.

In trying to put off the inevitable Nora only succeeds in ratcheting up the tension. Her dance scene is comic and grotesque at the same time. Then Kronstad's missive drops into the letter-box for which Torvald has the only key.

Where will it all end?

The leads played their parts well, if a little straitlaced at times. Some of the narrative produced a nervous tittering in the mostly youngish crowd but it did not detract from the occasion.

Crin Claxton's lighting was subdued and redolent of the period, and Richard Rudnicki's movable set was compact enough for the small cast to rearrange as they went.

At over two hours long this production never wavered from what the playwright intended, and the cast were enthusiastically received as the lights went down.

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Sorry Comments Closed

Comment left by Dave Musker on 23rd October, 2014 at 12:16
A tantalising review. Makes me wish I had attended.