Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | A Doll's House at The Space
Ginger Hibiscus | A Doll's House at The Space
Ginger Hibiscus | A Doll's House at The Space
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06 Jun REVIEW: A Doll’s House at The Space

Nora and her husband, Torvald, seem to have it all. A beautiful home, beautiful children, and an upcoming promotion for Torvald that’ll solidify their long term financial security. But behind Nora’s calm, agreeable mask of a face lies a burning dissatisfaction, and a secret that could destroy it all. When an old friend, Christine, comes looking for work after a 10 year absence, they start to tumble down a slippery slope that threatens to expose Nora’s secret, setting in motion a destructive wheel that can never be stopped, and never be reversed.

A play written by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House was devised in the 19th century to be a criticism of the marital and societal norms of the culture within which he lived, and to question the marginalisation of women and women’s choices by that same society. Through Norma, audiences are offered an insight into the life of a woman, of a doll, a plaything to be picked up and flung around by the men who possess her, to be controlled and patronised by a narcissistic husband who prizes “womanly helplessness.”

A-Dolls-House-web1There are, however, some difficulties with the way this most recent production stages these issues; a play intended as a social critique feels stripped of it’s social context, as it’s unclear where, or when the play is positioned. The modern styling (including a very new-looking electrical iron, some rather fashionable suits and sound effects comparable to social media notifications) feels both familiar, and incongruous with the archaic values and societal expectations depicted therein, where it’s expected that a woman would ask permission of her husband to seek employment, and where he would have to sign off on her taking out any kind of loan. With this contradiction in mind, and with accents hailing from across the globe, it’s impossible to determine a single society that the show is supposed to be reflecting, even though visually it certainly looks like today. And if it is supposed to be today, then why all the fuss about £250?

Stripped of a society, a social critique becomes quite meaningless, reducing the play to being just a story, and it’s not one exciting or complex enough to exist exclusively in that form. Despite missing the point on social critique, though, Chloe Mashiter’s production successfully moves the focus of the play, instead, towards the question of, “what, if anything, actually binds us to the people in our lives?” A more universal question, this possibly explains the ambiguity in time and geography, and is an idea that’s gently touched upon but thankfully never laboured.

Despite contributing to the contextual confusion, Grace Smart’s design is beautifully simple, and the cast do well with an interesting script, with particular mention to Rachel Handshaw for her sassy Christine, the perfect antidote to a deliberately limp Nora from Greta Gould, a well judged take on the character that captures the vulnerability of her existence, as well as providing a vivid contrast when the moment finally comes when she has to stand a little taller.

The staging of A Doll’s House offers a great excuse to enjoy Henrik Ibsen’s masterpiece, and to discover his rarely used alternative ending, which nudges so convincingly at that question of what it is that holds people together. In doing so, and in using an ending that in his lifetime Ibsen was so resentful towards, the production feels a little like a play twisted out of the writer’s hands, losing a little potency along the way. But boasting a certain style and maintaining Ibsen’s script, A Doll’s House remains a thought-provoking and interesting play, transformed into a lovely, understated piece of theatre.

For tickets and information:
Venue: The Space
Dates: 3rd June – 13th June

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here