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August 20, 2013 5:36 pm
Carrie Cracknell’s production of Ibsen’s 1879 classic first opened at the Young Vic last year. Following high acclaim, it was revived at that theatre this spring and now transfers to London’s West End.
Hattie Morahan reprises the role of Nora Helmer, for which she won the Critics’ Circle and Evening Standard awards for Best Actress in 2012,and she remains as captivating here. Skittish and self-aware, Morahan’s Nora is a woman acutely conscious of her role as wife and mother – yet unable to play it. Unbeknown to her husband Torvald, she borrowed money to look after their family years ago when he was ill. And now the moneylender, Krogstad, nursing his own bruised pride, is after more than just repayment.
Tension builds slowly in the first half – perhaps a touch too slowly – and comes to a head magnificently when Nora dances the tarantella for Torvald and his friend. At first she dances with a barely concealed desperation, as if she might hold everything together if she only keeps dancing. But as the spotlight on her grows stronger and darkness falls over the men, she looks lost, blank – a demented puppet in someone else’s game.
Morahan is undoubtedly the star of the show. Yet there is a quiet power in the understated supporting performances. Dominic Rowan’s Torvald is patronising, ambitious and lusty but ultimately ruled by his fear of public gossip. The arrival of Nora’s estranged childhood friend Kristine (sensitively portrayed by Caroline Martin) throws Torvald and Nora’s small world into relief. Widowed and alone, Kristine has found satisfaction in earning her own living. All the women here have had to make sacrifices: old Anna (Leda Hodgson), nanny to Nora and now Nora’s children, gave up her own daughter soon after she was born. And we are given a glimpse of the maid Helene’s personal life – and its constraints – when a mysterious man delivers her a Christmas present.
Ian MacNeil’s intricate revolving set – the doll’s house of the title – comes into its own in the cinematic interludes, accompanied by Stuart Earl’s appropriately twinkly music. Simon Stephens’ new English-language version of the text, paired with Cracknell’s crisp direction, makes the characters’ anxieties feel contemporary despite the period dress. “Feminism” may not have been in Ibsen’s vocabulary, but he was undoubtedly concerned with the roles we all play and why.
Until October 26, www.atgtickets.com
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