This production of Henrik Ibsenís stage classic promises much. Directed by Rachel Kavanaugh (The Merry Wives of Windsor) and featuring TV, screen and stage star Tara Fitzgerald as Nora Helmer, the evening comes trailing clouds of glory. But it adds up to less than the sum of its parts. It is A Doll's House which may, however, grow in stature during its subsequent UK tour.
The lights go up on a lovely, single and unvarying interior, all bleached pine and muted colours which are echoed by the costumes of the cast (designer Ruari Murchison). Into this Doll's House bursts Nora, a whirl in crimson finery, unwrapping presents, talking ten to the dozen, singing and eating macaroons.
Though the play is long (over three hours and two intervals here), it keeps up a frenetic pace. Unfortunately, it does so at the expense of the development of character and a sense that these people have known each other before tonight.
Again and again, the actors interrupt one another, even talking over one another in stumbling fashion for some seconds. This is, presumably, a directorial decision, but it becomes more and more irritating and is ultimately destructive to the text.
The translation, by playwright Bryony Lavery (Frozen), does not help, with such lexical infelicities as "I am absolutely not crazy myself", and "Dr Rank kind of belongs in this house", falling to the stage with a thud, rather than taking flight. Itís only in the final half-hour, when the pace at last slows down, that the performances acquire some heart and the greatness of Ibsen is allowed to breath.
While the suggestion that it may be morally right for a wife to walk out on family no longer shocks, A Doll's House remains strikingly modern in its advocacy of the importance of individual freedom above everything else.
Tara Fitzgerald delivers a high-energy, committed performance as the capricious, passionate heroine, while Richard Clothier and Peter Guinness offer solid support. The excellent lighting by Tim Mitchell also deserves a mention.
- Peter Wood (reviewed at Birmingham Rep)