Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House is a powerful play where the characters, particularly the female ones, are complex. But none of these is evident in Theatre Delicatessen’s current production.
Written in the 19th century, it’s a story about a woman, Nora, who realises that her marriage is a sham and who walks away from her home, husband and children to find herself. A more modern revival of this play can still work as there are still countless women stuck in such marriages. In the rich Western world, the freedom of women isn’t about breaking free from men’s expectations of them; but it is about breaking free from these women’s fear of losing their lifestyles, expensive holidays, designer clothes, the ‘yummy mummy’ status etc – all of which come with a price and usually the price is to mute their voices and become trophy wives.
Nora, played by Polly Eachus, seemed too much of a girly girl. While her character is expected to be girly and dizzy by her husband, Nora is a woman with children and one who has kept secrets from her husband and therefore has many depths to her – but sadly, we don’t get to see these layers in this Nora. By the time we come to the final scene, where Nora realises that she isn’t married to the man she thought she was, we are not convinced by her speech about discovering herself and her decision to walk away.
Much has been written about this all woman ensemble in this production. Interestingly, it is the women who play the male characters, rather than the women who play the female characters, who are astounding. Throughout the play, you find yourself sympathising with the male characters, even if you don’t always agree with their actions. Margaret-Ann Bain who plays Nora’s husband – Torvald – is impressive; her vocal range, movements, facial expressions are a joy to watch.
A minor irritation with this production is that in order to get a drink (and it was rather warm in the venue), all women have to wear moustaches or be dressed as men; otherwise they don’t get served. This is all jolly good fun at a fancy dress party or a gender bending club; but Ibsen’s themes far outweigh the silliness of donning a false tache for a glass of wine.
A Doll’s House runs till 5 February 2011.