Synopsis: The Helmers are all set to enjoy a new life in a new home. Torvald has been promoted to a senior position at the bank and Nora is delighted. At last, they can put their financial troubles behind them. But their fragile happiness is shattered by the arrival of an unexpected visitor. As the lies that Nora has told, and the risks that she has taken to protect her husband are exposed, they are forced to question just how perfect their marriage really is. Now, it seems, only a miracle will set them free.
Review: SPORT FOR JOVE presents Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, a part of the Seymour Centre’s Reginald season. Attending the Reginald launch month’s before I was immediately excited about the diverse productions on show. Director Adam Cook has adapted this classic in the most astute and delicate manner. Extracting the dramatic pulp in each character that generated bursts of emotions especially in the protagonist Nora Helmer, played by the vivacious Matilda Ridgway. Cook’s adaptation (which could go any-which-way-or-another due to the fact the original play is in Norwegian ) was respectful of the texts natural tones creating quite varied moods in the language from Act one to Act two. Act one feeling much more of the period in the way the characters expressed themselves through language. Bar some of their body language, which felt rather contemporary, much more forward than I would imagine would occur on the late 19th century stage or household even.
Ibsen himself not fearful to write gritty material about the realities of man and wife, children and scandal within a household, the bleak, grey matter that collects between the walls of a building relationship. Cook only enhanced these topics in a manner and language that was gripping to a modern audience, relevance with out fault. Act two’s expression heightened by the presence of alcoholic frolic brought the two, man and wife Torvald and Nora Helmer head to head in dispute and rugged truth about one another and their far from idyllic marriage and surrounding situations, influences and pressures. Cook could not have done this production in a more persuasive manner, the adaption, witty, heart breaking and endearing. His Nora Helmer, the naive child like woman, obsessed with money, chocolate and the well being of her husband was like watching a train crash, you just couldn’t look away at her frivolous approach to life and problems. Even in the end, women’s rights, liberation and freedom aside the question of right and wrong in abandoning one’s children as a woman is still as questionable and morally stretching then as it is now. Nora’s realisation of what she feels she must do had me casting my thoughts to similar stories such as film Kramer vs Kramer, very similar in circumstance and social position.
As Cook mentions in his note in the program has human nature evolved that much from 1898? This adaptation will carry you on a journey from 1898 to 2014 merely by Cooks choice of language and conversation dynamics. Really quite brilliantly produced and shouldn’t be taken for granted, not an easy task to pull off.
Cook has cast a stellar bunch of actors to boot. Douglas Hansell who played Torvald Helmer delivered an all round 19th century husband whose success and status would have been all nods to the ever eye balling society that surrounded him. Hansell held the reins at the beginning of the play, guiding his character’s wife and home like a mare and bit, a controlled and nurturing performance. The second act found Hansell very loosely in control of a previously tighter grip of his characters responses losing himself in the emotion of the moment. A heart on the sleeve performance that was lovely to witness.
Matilda Ridgway played Nora Helmer with magic humour, an almost disguised madness wrapped in childish banter and play. A carefree spirited performance, with a real sense of light in shade in her characters struggles. Ridgway was a sight to behold in the moments her character began to unravel, demonstrating tremendous control emotionally saving the peaks for the right moments hitting the spot like a dart to a bull’s eye.
Anthony Gooley played the intolerable Nils Krogstad with an unwavering commitment to the passive aggressive that had you biting a few nails as to what to expect from a yet erupted volcano. Gooley presented a slithering style in delivery and body language that created some serious questions about the mental stability of his character. Played coolly by Gooley.
Francesca Savige played Kristine Linde, with an elegance that hid some sneaky attributes of her seemingly supportive character to Nora Helmer. Savige performed with smarts and boldness. A beautiful contrast to the bleeding heart character of Nora Helmer. Savige played Ms. Linde with a calculation that kept her character full of subtle surprises revealed through out. A charming performer.
Annie Bryon, playing nurse/maid, Helen and Barry French as Dr. Rank both gave equally pleasing performances, bringing richness and joy throughout, never a dull moment both presenting some comical attributes as well as some dearness to two well worn characters. The youngest of the cast Bill Blake, playing Ivar Helmer and Thom Blake as Jon Helmer both did wonderfully in delivering wit and humour for their first major production, captivating the audience with their sweetness and fearlessness.
Sport for Jove have a reputation, a good one. That is because they consictently produce wonderful theatre, another great production that both cast, crew and company should be mega proud of. Special mention to Hugh O’Connor for his set and costume design which was elegant, tasteful and unassuming in the most wonderful way.
See A Doll’s House as soon as you can it is an enriching experience indeed
Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre 17th July-2nd August