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Review of A Doll’s House – A new adaptation by Theatrical Niche

A Doll's House“You have never loved me. You have only thought it pleasant to be in love with me” (Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House). One of the most recognisable and relevant phrases delivered by Ibsen, A Doll’s House explores the entrapment of Nora Helmer by the men around her. It is, therefore, a fitting addition to the Tara Arts Theatre season entitled, ‘I’ll say it again’ – a series of work from women artists. Ibsen’s characters, how they develop and how they are treated is a message that, unfortunately, and unforgivably, is still a concern today. It speaks volumes that a play written in 1879 can still have so many connotations with how women are oppressed in 2018 and how such oppression can continue in the everyday.

Theatrical Niche should take huge credit for what they have set out to do. The company collaborated with some of the UK’s leading Mental Health and Domestic Abuse charities and the cast spoke respectfully about this topic post-show, asking the audience to donate to these charities in support of this important cause. It was pleasing to see all the audience so engaged with this and willing to give what they can in light of what they had just been presented.

The piece’s strengths lie in this collision of, as the company themselves put it, ‘Verbatim interviews and Emotive Choreography.’ The choreography was indeed emotive and the use of real-life accounts of abuse and mental issues were creatively delivered and resulted in moving moments of physical expression and devastating recounts of cruelty. The cast have some remarkable actors and their ability to play multiple roles within both Ibsen’s world and today’s, was repeatedly impressive.

There is, however, a long way to go for this production. The verbatim moments occurred sporadically and were not delicately placed in the context of Ibsen’s play. Moreover, the decision to adapt Ibsen’s words and create new scenes from his story was letting down this strong cast. The script had moments of weakness and they sadly stuck out from rest. Though it was bold, the play attempted to do too much and it left the audience feeling exhausted – particularly the play’s denouement which hammered home what we already knew about the characters and absorbed all the energy of the scene at length. The entire performance was therefore always going to struggle by creating a need to cut down and adapt Ibsen’s original play.

Choosing to place these characters in London and cutting down the set to a minimum also created a problematic dynamic within their narrative. On the one hand, the stage physically looked like a doll’s house and the cast cleverly passed props through the walls of the house – appearing as if someone was playing with Nora like she was a doll. However these moments again did not occur often enough and it meant the piece relied on the edited, adapted script of Ibsen which is lost when not in its entirety. The task to combine these two worlds of theatre is not an easy one though and the company did deliver certain scenes from Ibsen’s work with strong characters and commanding exchanges.

Nothing should be taken away from the importance of this piece. The cast have created an eye-opening reflection on society and have done significant work by expressing the modern voice through charities that help so many. Nevertheless, there is more precision and finesse needed in melding these two performance styles together in order to give Theatrical Niche the chance to deliver something truly groundbreaking.

3 Star Review

Review by James Evans

Mr and Mrs Helmer are the iconic power couple. They excel at work, staying on top, socialising. They excel at excelling. But as his autobiography rolls out around Christmas-time, it seems there are a few things that Mr. Helmer may not have mentioned in the foreword.

Working with some of the UK’s leading Mental Health charities, we use Verbatim interviews and emotive Choreography to rocket Ibsen’s famous tale into a hugely relevant re-telling for modern audiences.

Exploring stigmas around gender and mental health, this artful adaptation focuses on the impossible idolisation of one ‘perfect’ woman, by a man who walks with weights around his ankles.

“A Doll’s House” showcases the play-writing collaboration of two of Theatrical Niche’s founding members, as well as the direction of the critically-acclaimed artist, Alice Sillett. This new production incorporates the words and intonations of mental abuse & mental health problem sufferers, giving Ibsen a resoundingly contemporary voice.

A Doll’s House
A touring production by
theatrical niche ltd
Directed by Alice Sillett
Choreographed by Amy Lawrence
Adapted by Alice Knapton & Venetia Twigg

EARLSFIELD:
Tara Arts Theatre on Thursday 3rd & Friday 4th May 2018
https://www.tara-arts.com/

GREENWICH:
Greenwich Theatre on Wednesday 13th & Thursday 14th June 2018 at 7.30pm
https://www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk/

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