23 August 2013

A Doll's House at the Duke of York's

Ibsen and I do not always get on that well, which is a shame as theatres keep putting his plays on and I keep going to them despite my previous experiences.

They have not been all bad, A Doll's House at the Arcola was wonderful and Love's Comedy at the Orange Tree was fine. The productions that I felt misfired were the more mainstream The Lady from the Sea at the Rose and Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic.

When I've been disappointed I've felt that the weakness was in the play and it may be that the fringe theatres are more willing to play around with this to make it work.

I felt that this version of A Doll's House suffered from the script and lacked creditability as a result, whereas the modern interpretation at the Arcola was hauntingly beautiful.

I decided to see this production, having avoided it twice at the Young Vic, because of the reviews and I let them sway me over having seen it just a couple of years earlier.

A Doll's House is a one-trick pony. It tells the story of Nora Helmer, apparently happily married, with three children, to a banker who is rising up the ranks. But she has a dark secret in her past, to do with money, and that secret is bubbling towards the surface.

The climax of the play comes when the secret finally emerges and we have the husband's strong reaction and then the wife's decisive reaction to that.

The build towards the climax is slow, tense and believable but, just like in the The Lady From the Sea, the climax itself is rushed and unconvincing.

The cast make the most of what they have to work with and I have no complaints about their performances. The set was good too with a simple rotation takings us to different parts of the house.

There was much to appreciate in the play and in this production, it is just that I felt that having taken us skilfully towards the ending the play then took a different direction and ended on a weak note. If I ignore the last five minutes then everything was fine. unfortunately it is the memory of how the play ends that lingers the most.

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