Henrik Ibsen said that in his major work A Doll’s House he was tasked with “the description of humanity”. Director Lily Melhuish and Producer Anya Dye have certainly managed to convey this in their version of the 1879 Danish play – through a handful of complex and often relatable characters, we see every emotion pass across the stage and not always when we expect it.
The plot centres around Nora Helmer, a housewife who appears to dutifully adore her banker husband, Torvald. When a less-than-legitimate financial transaction threatens to tear down the Helmer’s idyllic lifestyle, Nora becomes embroiled in a desperate and intricate search for a solution; with the support and interference of her friend Christine, the family physician Dr Rank, and Torvald’s disgraced colleague Nils Krogstad. The play’s ending caused controversy when it premiered in Copenhagen, and despite the passing of time Melhuish has managed to retain the element of shock – particularly in several scenes between Nora and Torvald – without modernising the masterpiece. The effective staging of the ground floor of a house separated by five black doors makes the turbulent plot easier to track.
‘The play’s ending caused controversy when it premiered in Copenhagen, and despite the passing of time Melhuish has managed to retain the element of shock…without modernising the masterpiece.’
Characters are multi-faceted and the audience’s allegiance wavers throughout the play. Jess Moncur is particularly brilliant as Nora, whose only constant ally is the audience, and Hugo Jones’s patronising Torvald was met with outrage and laughter from the audience, delivering an especially memorable champagne-infused scene.
The play was adopted as an early trailblazer for feminists, given the strong female lead and the shocking ending. Assistant Producer Steph Green, however, informed me that they “tried to keep it as faithful to the original as possible – Ibsen didn’t intend it to be a play about feminism”. This was achieved, as while the production carries the theme of female empowerment it also delivers messages about honesty, freedom and loyalty in the frame of a marriage, meaning Ibsen’s work will never cease to be relevant.
TG’s A Doll’s House continues its run tonight (Wednesday 19th October) and tomorrow (Thursday 20th October). Tickets can be found online here, or at TG’s stall in the union.
(Image courtesy of Theatre Group’s facebook)