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Emily Perkins’ adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 original moves the setting to present-day New Zealand, and the home of builder Theo and his resourceful, impulsive, generous wife Nora.
Like Ibsen’s, the modest home symbolises security, warmth and love, and he stylish set, designed by Ian Harman, complements this idea, suggesting an ecologically sound and solidly built but unfinished construction.
In general, the script follows Ibsen’s intentions, with similar characters, motives and plot intricacies. Perkins’ sensitive, highly skilled writing conveys the economic and social pressures faced by modern families, and the joys, responsibilities and perils of parenting.
Contemporary attitudes and mores don’t always sit quite comfortably, however, and this is especially evident when we are expected to accept that the usually competent and knowledgeable Nora is so naive that she doesn’t grasp the implications of the very simple financial arrangements at the play’s core.
Zesty, nimble performances by Sophie Hambleton as Nora, Simon Leary as Theo (a more sympathetic but perhaps less complex version Ibsen’s Torvald), Peter McCauley as Gerry (Dr Rank), Kali Kopae as Christine (Mrs Linde) and Francis Biggs as Aiden (Krogstad) are convincing.
As the couple’s children, Sophie Fuller and Dimitri Latton deservedly steal everyone’s hearts. Lighting design by Marcus McShane adds considerably to visual impact.
The final moments are as genuinely shocking as both Ibsen and Perkins would wish, but Nora’s outbursts and frenzied activity in the preceding 15 or so minutes, while necessary, seem overdone and test the audience’s credibility.
As with the recent Pop-Up Shakespeare performances at the Regent, there is an audibility problem. Seated near the middle of the stalls, which were about half full, I strained to hear every word, and this detracted from the experience.
The production has been brought to Dunedin by Twist Productions and Tour-Makers, and is directed by Katherine McCrae.
A Doll’s House
Friday, September 6
- by Barbara Frame