Nora Helmer is devoted to her husband, Torvald, and their children, so much so that when she sees the opportunity to secure a loan to pay for a restorative trip to ‘save my husband’s life’, she thinks nothing of forging her father’s signature to ensure that it happens. When her fraudulent activities are used against her, she is shocked by the turn of events and the reactions of those around her….
As director Bruce Macintosh observes in his programme notes, the socio-political background to Nora and Torvald’s marriage is less obvious today (and some aspects are no longer present at all), which can make it harder for the actors to perform Ibsen’s ‘realism’ and for the audience to connect with it. However, the human emotions and reactions underpinning this are universal and timeless, so the relevance remains.
The role of Nora is a huge one for an actress to take on and Kitty Cecil-Wright is fully committed with her physicality and vocal performance. Her diction is always very clear, with good projection, and her struggle to maintain her composure when under threat is particularly poignant; she grew into the role as her nerves started to visibly dissipate and she became more secure with her dialogue. Jim Lockwood’s Torvald is assured in his portrayal of coolness, efficiency and authority, while Mathew Stone’s warmth and humour bring a very welcome touch of light relief as well as genuine concern and affection for Nora. Christina Herrington gives a charmingly understated and very realistic performance as Anne-Marie, the Helmer’s maid.
The costumes are beautifully evocative of the period, and the attention to detail for the props is commendable. The basic black set with white doors is well dressed by appropriate furnishings, although the limitations of lighting facilities in the school’s performance area means that the actors are walking in and out of shadows that fall across their faces.
Set in late 19th-century Norway, A Doll’s House is one of Henrik Ibsen’s most famous and regularly performed plays, here in a condensed translation by Samuel Adamson that keeps the essence and plotline of Ibsen’s original, but perhaps skips over the subtle developments and thought processes of the characters too much to keep it flowing coherently and to fully explore the developing psychological characterisations; first-night nerves, a few stumbles, hesitations, heavy sighing and prompts didn’t help, but overall this is a valiant effort to do justice to Ibsen’s classic melodrama and deserves large audiences during the rest of its run until 28 October at 7.30 each evening.