credit: Mermaids

‘I take nothing from strangers.’ A Doll’s House: Reviewed

Henrik Ibsen’s classic 1879 work comes to life.

The Mermaid’s production of A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen follows the story of a housewife Nora (Fiona McNevin) in 19th century Norway. Unbeknownst to her husband, Torvald (Sam Gray), Nora took out a loan to take care of Torvald when he was ill. This decision is now coming back to haunt her in the form of Krogstad (Liam Smith).

Nora drives herself to the brink of sanity trying to keep her loan a secret to spare her husband the knowledge of the indignity of being saved by his wife. The play begins when Nora’s old friend, Christine Linde (Francesca Ash) comes back into her life seeking a job from Torvald. However, the promised job to Nora’s oldest friend comes at the cost of dismissing Krogstad, a disliked member of Torvald’s staff, who just so happens to be the very person Nora took the loan from. Torvald, knowing of Krogstad’s shifty past but not of his wife’s debt and is determined to dismiss him no matter how hard his wife begs and implores. Krogstad’s grip on Nora tightens when he discovers that she has faked the signature of her father, the guarantor for the debt, in an effort to spare him the knowledge of Nora’s money problems.

credit: Mermaids

Nora spends two thirds of the play being cornered by men threatening, patronising and propositioning her, all the while the secret debt hangs over her threatening to crush her. Nora feels that she cannot turn to anyone, not her childhood maid who now looks after her children, Annie-Marie (Issy Cory), nor the family friend, Doctor Rank (Sebastian Durfee) who has just professed his undying love for her. The culmination comes when Torvald discovers the debt; in his eyes Nora could not have done anything worse, her deception kills his love for her. Yet, in a matter of moments, Krogstad removes his threat and suddenly Nora is a naïve, well-meaning, ‘giddy girl,’ who, in her womanly ignorance, only tried to save her husband. This change of heart also alters something in Nora; she refuses to be backed into a corner anymore, no matter how much her husband begs and pleads (a fitting reversal) when she decides to leave the house to shed herself of her naivety and to learn for herself what she wants from the world.

credit: Mermaids

The director (Charles Vivian), the crew and the actors have evidently worked hard to bring this play about frustrating gender inequality in the 19th century to life. Nora displays naivety and giddiness as she laughs off her troubles with a smile and a flick of her hair until the end, where a serious and decisive woman emerges who does not want to be supported by a husband she does not know. One sees clearly the underlying possessiveness of Torvald, the cruelty as well as the hopelessness of Krogstad who finds himself jobless with children to take care of. In addition, the desperation of the lonely widow, Mrs Lind, is palpable, the miserable, pessimistic Doctor Rank in his own world as the story clamours around him, the sweet, strong protective instincts of the nurse, Annie-Marie.

I hope that the cast and crew feel pleased with themselves for creating such a well-acted, produced and directed piece of theatre.

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