Following from the success of Hilary 2018’s Labyrinth is no easy task, yet Sour Peach Productions look set to do just that, and more. This version of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House combines an intimate cast, toxic relationships and powerful dialogue in its magnification a society on the cusp of a sexual revolution.
The play has been taken out of its original 19th century context and put into the early 1960s. It is far enough away from the audience to retain the element of ‘period’, but close enough to be related to the present day. Director Olivia White emphasised how, when Ibsen is taken from the 19th century context, we view the problems contested in Ibsen’s plays differently, hence why the 1960s setting is so crucial. It means that there is a sense of detachment for some members of the audience, but not a detachment from our parents, or even grandparents. It is still personal.
The emphasis on relationships has been worked on extensively. The cast work together naturally and respond to each other’s detailed movements, from a sharp intake of breath to the movement on stage. The level of respect the actors have for each other is obvious, and beautiful to watch.
It is an inherently feminist play. Ibsen grounded himself in humanitarian issues. It will be exciting to see the production’s full handling of this. There will be ‘beautiful’ costumes, intricate lighting, and a live band performing Sarah Spencer’s original songs for the performance. The play will open with pink toned lighting, appropriately ‘rose tinted’, which will become harsher as the play reaches its climax. It will be a spectrum of sickliness.
There is an underlying sense of panic, and all characters handle this exceptionally. Ceidra Murphy’s Nora and Staś Butler’s Dr Rank transmit this well. Murphy’s quick reactions are slick. Palpable emotion runs throughout the scene I was shown, with the line: ‘I need you to do something for me’ symbolic of the power dynamics that underpin the play.
Panic mingles with fear in Susannah Townsend’s performance as Christine. The range of emotion that she shows is evocative of a woman with nothing left to lose. The accompanying music in the scene I saw complimented Townsend’s use of voice, giving the sense of layered emotions. Whilst the music emphasises the emotion of the scene, both Townsend, and Flinn Andreae as Krogstad, held themselves in a manner of fluctuating emotion that was as vivid as the music that runs throughout.
The role of Torvald is performed by James Akka. His performance is being kept under wraps so unfortunately, he wasn’t there for the preview, though you should expect great things. Whilst Torvald is a ‘misogynistic, repulsive man’, White emphasised how she didn’t want the play to be about the binary of good versus bad.
A Doll’s House will take your expectations of society, revolution, and love and challenge your preconceptions. The 1960s setting revitalises the play, and facilitates the presentation of characters’ perplexity both inside and outside the home.