Mon, 2nd Nov 2019

'A Doll's House' at the Barron Theatre: A Review

Text by: 

Georgina Johnson

Photo by: 
Mermaids Performing Arts Fund

The Barron Theatre’s production of A Doll’s House, directed by Charles Vivian, was a strikingly subtle piece, and despite the lack of intensity, an engaging performance.

Henrik Ibsen’s 19th century Norwegian drama tells the story of a married couple, Nora and Torvald Helmer, who have recently emerged from financial difficulty over the Christmas period. The plot revolves around a secret that is painstakingly kept by Nora; she borrowed money and forged her late father’s signature in order to save her oblivious, moralistic husband’s life, a truth that if revealed would jeopardise his new position as a bank manager. With the final of the three acts portraying the fallout of this secret being discovered, A Doll’s House presents the breakdown of the ‘good little wife’.

There was a tangible excitement in the audience at the beginning of the show, with acoustic Christmas tunes setting the mood for the season. As the play begins, we are introduced to the couple, girlish, twittering Nora (beautifully characterised by Fiona McNevin) and serious, condescending Torvald (whose pompous nature was depicted superbly by Sam Grey). The latter constantly refers to his wife as ‘squirrel’ and ‘lark’ throughout the production and the audience is immediately aware that something is not quite right in this relationship, that Nora is not as naïve and fragile as she seems. This incongruous impression made it a bit uncomfortable to watch, which was perhaps the intention.

Over the course of the first act, we meet the rest of the characters; the invalid sweetheart Dr. Rank (Sebastian Durfree); the constant nurse, Anne-Marie (Issy Cory); the worldly, worn down Mrs. Linde (Fran Ash); and the sinister, but desperate Krogstad (Liam Smith), all excellent castings. There was only one set, the cosy, cramped living room of the Helmer’s house, through which all the actors moved in order to affect the story. They used this space well in reaction to each other, embodying their personas confidently and with command in their dialogue that created a believable, stifling domestic world.

However, I felt that at times the action lacked nuance, especially considering the finale of the play. Certain revelations, such as Mrs. Linde and Krogstad’s romance, lacked development, and Nora’s hysteria meant that she was difficult to fully empathise with. Yet her moment of epiphany was arresting. While her decision to leave her family was a little jarring due to a lack of foreshadowing, the realisation that she was only the version of herself that Torvald wanted to play with, and that she had never known her husband, or indeed herself, was powerful and portrayed with the perfect level of emotion.

While the play enacts small world events of family, marriage, jobs and money, it represents universal concerns and although the drama was small scale and occasionally trivial, the forceful, dynamic ending left the audience curious and conflicted.

A Doll’s House: A Review

The Barron Theatre’s production of A Doll’s House, directed by Charles Vivian, was a strikingly subtle piece, and despite the lack of intensity, an engaging performance.

Henrik Ibsen’s 19th century Norwegian drama tells the story of a married couple, Nora and Torvald Helmer, who have recently emerged from financial difficulty over the Christmas period. The plot revolves around a secret that is painstakingly kept by Nora; she borrowed money and forged her late father’s signature in order to save her oblivious, moralistic husband’s life, a truth that if revealed would jeopardise his new position as a bank manager. With the final of the three acts portraying the fallout of this secret being discovered, A Doll’s House presents the breakdown of the ‘good little wife’.

There was a tangible excitement in the audience at the beginning of the show, with acoustic Christmas tunes setting the mood for the season. As the play begins, we are introduced to the couple, girlish, twittering Nora (beautifully characterised by Fiona McNevin) and serious, condescending Torvald (whose pompous nature was depicted superbly by Sam Grey). The latter constantly refers to his wife as ‘squirrel’ and ‘lark’ throughout the production and the audience is immediately aware that something is not quite right in this relationship, that Nora is not as naïve and fragile as she seems. This incongruous impression made it a bit uncomfortable to watch, which was perhaps the intention.

Over the course of the first act, we meet the rest of the characters; the invalid sweetheart Dr. Rank (Sebastian Durfree); the constant nurse, Anne-Marie (Issy Cory); the worldly, worn down Mrs. Linde (Fran Ash); and the sinister, but desperate Krogstad (Liam Smith), all excellent castings. There was only one set, the cosy, cramped living room of the Helmer’s house, through which all the actors moved in order to affect the story. They used this space well in reaction to each other, embodying their personas confidently and with command in their dialogue that created a believable, stifling domestic world.

However, I felt that at times the action lacked nuance, especially considering the finale of the play. Certain revelations, such as Mrs. Linde and Krogstad’s romance, lacked development, and Nora’s hysteria meant that she was difficult to fully empathise with. Yet her moment of epiphany was arresting. While her decision to leave her family was a little jarring due to a lack of foreshadowing, the realisation that she was only the version of herself that Torvald wanted to play with, and that she had never known her husband, or indeed herself, was powerful and portrayed with the perfect level of emotion.

While the play enacts small world events of family, marriage, jobs and money, it represents universal concerns and although the drama was small scale and occasionally trivial, the forceful, dynamic ending left the audience curious and conflicted.

'A Doll's House' was performed at 'The Barron Theatre' in St Andrews on the 28th and 29th November 2019. More information is available on: https://www.facebook.com/adollshousestandrews/?ref=page_internal