A domestic nightmare

A Doll’s House by The 
Synergy Theatre, Kingston Parish Hall, April 9 - 12

Henrik Ibsen’s renowned play, in this version translated from the original Norwegian by director David Parton, remains as challenging as when first performed in 1879.

The theme of a wife asserting herself, when it had always been accepted that a husband is the dominant partner, seemed almost heretical at the time.

Torvald Helmer (Bob Murdock), and his wife Nora (Charlotte Tayler), are about to celebrate Christmas with their three children and Torvald’s promotion to a senior position in a bank. But this cosy domesticity suddenly becomes a nightmare when Nora reveals to her old school friend, Kristine (Becky Robinson), that she forged her late father’s signature to obtain his money to pay for treatment of her husband’s illness. Torvald, now fully recovered, knows nothing about this but his important role in the bank leaves him open to blackmail.

Nils Krogstad (Josh Impey), a disaffected former employee and Kristine’s one-time lover, plans to use this knowledge to secure his reinstatement. Dr Rank (Benedict O’Donohoe), family GP and Torvalds’s long-time friend, is secretly in love with Nora, but slowly dying from a terminal illness which he feels unable to reveal.

When Torvald learns of his wife’s deception, which would be devastating to his new status, he goes, to use a modern expression, ‘ballistic’. Nora realises she is faced with no alternative but to leave him and her family. Her husband’s cloying references to her as his “little skylark”, and his treatment of her almost as a doll, which gives the play its title, can no longer be endured. Nora’s determination to put ‘self’ above everything else has been hailed as a triumph for feminism, but Ibsen’s play is more about the inability of family and close friends to communicate.

This perceptively cast and and fast-paced production, Charlotte gives a stunning performance as Nora, is a triumph for all involved.

By Roger Paine