Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A Doll's House

Birmingham Repertory Theatre/The Touring Consortium , New Theatre Cardiff , March-16-04
Everyone has a need to be taken seriously. Maybe it’s this lack of respect that is at the root of much of today’s social unrest. We see clearly that Torvald Helmer’s insensitivity and chauvinistic attitude to his wife eventually has disastrous consequences. On first meeting Nora, we find her a somewhat superficial empty-headed doll playing delightfully in her own Scandinavian Doll’s house. Her three children are her own dolls and she his very much the plaything of her patronising husband.

Tom Goodman-Hill, as Torvald Helmer, with the confident way he swaggers around as master in his own home gives an extremely accessible performance. Tara Fitzgerald’s Nora finds a good sense of fun as she twittesr around delightfully preparing her house and her children for the Christmas festivities. Assisted by Bryony Lavery’s sharp adaptation they are clearly able to demonstrate the nature of their joyful relationship and also strike a good sense of the late nineteenth century, the original period of the play.

The story is driven by Nora’s uncertain fears that her well-meant but foolish deception of some time ago will now be revealed and by her unsuccessful attempts to prevent this. Today this is the stuff of Soap Opera but none the less significant for that. What makes this production a worthwhile experience is the aesthetic craft of a master playwright. Each scene is crafted to allow both the characters and the plot to expand. Director Rachel Kavanaugh’s well-paced theatricality is never so real as to make us forget where we are, so that we are able to embrace the theatrical experience in a very satisfying manner.

Every production can’t always be great art but this one is heading in the right direction. Tara Fitzgerald’s performance strengthens as the pressures on Nora increase; her tenderness and sincerity with Doctor Rank and with Mrs Linde is charming and at times quite moving. The short melodramatic bursts of Torvald and Kronstad are again a nice blend of theatrical reality. The Players Jane Gurnett-Mrs Linde, Richard Clothier-Nils Kronstad- and Peter Guinness-Doctor Rank all embrace their roles with a good degree of subtlety and sensitivity.

Although set in nineteenth century Norway, like all great classic plays A Doll’s House has a timeless and universal theme. This production concentrated on a clear telling of the story. It did this well, right up to the closing moments where it seemed to go on a bit too long and the slow pace detracted a little from the emotion of the scene. Nevertheless quite a good approach for an examination text but maybe the large, interestingly mainly female, student audience will have to return to their own copies of the play for a deeper understanding of some of the more subtle complications of character and human motivation.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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