Bringing elements of puppetry, dance and physical theatre, Space productions bring their adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll's House to the Arcola Studio.
The play looks at the life and struggles of Nora, who is weighed down by the pressures of being the perfect wife and mother. While doing all she can to keep Torvald happy, Nora’s biggest preoccupation is to keep a secret hidden, and as the play conspires this becomes more and more difficult. Where the extent of Nora’s difficulties can seem ridiculous in the wrong hands, director Alex Crampton seeks to bring the power play of this marriage, and Nora’s social vulnerability to a modern audience. This production, and Gina Abolins’ central performance, succeed in making her plight important and truthful.
However, Crampton’s main addition to A Doll's House is also the most peculiar. Expressing Nora’s inner turmoil and dilemmas, she is accompanied at all times by three 'Norns'; female entities from Norse mythology who controlled the fate of men, and who, in this adaptation, emerge to haunt Nora in her private moments. These physical, dance-based scenes are engaging in themselves, but do little to expand on Nora’s situation. Her predicament is that she must keep up this exhausting web of lies, the Norn scenes can seem conversely to relieve tension by over-exposing what‘s really going on.
The stage is littered with teacups, Christmas trees and other fragments of domestic life, with Torvald’s office imposing it’s presence from a platform in the corner. The faceless puppet children, while lovingly brought to life, are indicative of an environment that is over-stylized, and many of the lighting transitions are clumsy and over the top.
There are many fine performances in this piece, and by and large the twists of every scene are convincing and compelling. Emma Deegan shows dignity and brings a refreshing sense of perspective as Christine, and Dominik Golding as Torvald injects some much needed levity, while never caricaturing Nora’s orthodox husband.
Whereas many of the trimmings of this versions of A Doll's House fail to hit the spot, the central story of Nora is effective, and crucially, this talented cast manage to accomplish Ibsen’s knotty and complex ending.