There’s a blind self-centeredness about all of Ibsen’s heroic characters, and it’s the great virtue of Carrie Cracknell‘s Young Vic production, and Hattie Morahan‘s mesmerising performance, that Nora seems a rather skittish, selfish and dangerously impulsive creature, even as the scales drop from her eyes with regard to her husband’s behaviour.
On a second viewing, I still admire rather than salivate over this version. Simon Stephens‘ text (based on a literal translation of Charlotte Barslund) is quick and lively, and Ian MacNeil’s revolving doll’s house – showing us Torvald’s study and Nora’s bedroom as well as the drawing room – has mercifully slowed down a little and scratched the superfluous upper level.
As so often in Ibsen, financial skulduggery in the past is at the root of it all, with Nora’s forged signature on a loan from bank clerk Krogstad to help her husband through a rough patch of ill health returning to haunt her and initiate all sorts of repercussions.
In plotting, and psychological twists, of unsurpassed dramatic brilliance, Ibsen shows how trust in a marriage is the main essential; and in the parallel plot of Krogstad’s alliance with Nora’s old friend Kristine – played with a quiet intensity by Nick Fletcher and Caroline Martin – he also shows how constancy grows in adversity.
I still find Steve Toussaint‘s inconveniently tall Dr Rank – he’s taller than the set – impenetrably anodyne; is he really obsessed with Nora? And doesn’t he resemble an injured athlete on his crutch rather than a sinister lounge lizard with a degenerative spinal condition?
Dominic Rowan‘s Torvald, though, is beautifully nuanced as a besotted and short-tempered husband, clearly out of his depth with Nora, unable to banish the rubble of social expectation from his own idea of responsible domination.
The dead-of-night show-down never fails, and as played by Morahan and Rowan, it’s simply electrifying. Mainly, I suspect, because this Nora is not a rabid neurotic for once, but a coltish, dream-like physical fulfilment of Torvald’s estimation of her as part doll and part swooping swallow.
As a bird in her own fairy-tale that spins out of control – from the unusually elegant restraint of the tarantella to the ominous, sexy striptease on the eve of departure – Morahan’s Nora is an enchanting, thoroughly wilful creature; for all her wild-eyed frenzy at the end, you could even see her coming back in an apologetic flurry in two or three days’ time.