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A Doll's House (Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Bryony Lavery’s new adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic, A Doll’s House storms into the fabulous setting of the Royal Exchange with a cast set to captivate and convey this emotionally driven play with great effect. Much loved and well known, this renowned play examines attitudes towards 19th century marriage, notably the role of the woman and how appearances can be deceptive. 

Nora Helmer (Cush Jumbo) is getting ready to celebrate Christmas with her husband Torvald (David Sturzaker) and their three children having recently received good news about Torvald’s employment at the bank. Safe in the knowledge they are financially secure, the family set about making the most of the festivities and even receive a surprise guest, Mrs Linde who is an old friend of Nora’s. As more friends and colleagues enter the story, Nora’s image of a perfect wife and mother begins to unravel and past decisions become prevalent in reveal more about the Helmer’s marriage than one could every expect at the outset. 

This is a strong performance by everyone involved but undoubtedly the night belongs to Cush Jumbo. Proving again that she can hold an auditorium in the palm of her hand with ease and flair. Her portrayal of Nora moves from child like innocence to strong independently minded woman with startling effect. As Nora realises that although her intention may have been pure, this in itself does not exempt her from the established legislative structure of the society she lives in, her attitude and behaviour turns on a pin head with dramatic results. 

Jumbo manages to engage the audience and take them in to her confidence, addressing them when on stage alone and the physical reaction she has to her situation is astounding and extremely effective. You can see why this brilliant actress earns so many great plaudits, whenever she performs.
The beauty of A Doll’s House is that although society has changed significantly, the themes ring true. Although Nora’s final decision and action is perhaps in itself not as devastating as it would have been in Ibsen’s day, the impact still resonates. 

Jumbo brings quite a contemporary feel to the character without over doing it. However, at times the direction (Greg Hersov) feels a little out of sync and perhaps a touch too safe. The calibre of the cast is enough to allow them more free rein. The sense of injustice and impending doom runs as a sufficient undercurrent throughout and in this production, it does not fail to enthrall and captivate.

- Ruth Lovett


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