Just a minute away from the Old Vic, the Young Vic looks, to quote J., like “the Old Vic’s little brother”. The warm summer nights London is blessed with at the moment mean that the restaurant has been turned into a terrace, colourful drinks are being savoured in front of the main doors, and the theatre’s flexible seats seem more welcoming than its older brother’s red velvet chairs. In addition, the idea that every revisited classic or new play transports the audience into a new world is the reason I certainly want to go back (coming up later this year: Three Sisters and The Changeling). I was expecting a central stage and the audience seated around it, but that is not what the director went for, and I will have to wait for next time.
Henrik Ibsen‘s A Doll’s House introduces us to the world of Nora and her family at Christmas time in the late 19th century. If it was not for the costumes, one could also assume the story takes place today. The audience starts by discovering a beautiful mother of three – her youngest is “played” by an incredibly well behaved and sweet baby – who spins around her (revolving) house like a doll, eats Christmas chocolates in secret and gently manipulates her loving husband into giving her more money, so she can make her (doll) house even prettier. Quickly enough, the arrival of a childhood friend, an employee of her husband’s and a declaration of love from her family’s doctor bring chaos and dizziness to Nora, who is already, without knowing it, “waiting for a miracle” to happen to her. This marks the road to her mental fall and her final revelation in the last minutes of the third act.
Morahan (described by the Guardian as being born to act) is a stunning, fragile looking and graceful actress who unveils layer after layer throughout the performance. The woman we come to love in the first minutes feels strongly for her husband Torvald (Dominic Rowan), as she is convinced that his happiness depends on her presence. Later we learn that she has sacrificed her honour by forging a signature and borrowing money to save Torvald from illness and care for her deceased father – something any loving woman, wife and daughter would do. In the final scene, she realises that this is something her husband would never have done, as he cares more about public appearance than for her.
The closing scene is captivating and seems to go by in a second: after having tried to control her panic throughout the Christmas holidays, Nora collapses. Her voice alters to the point where she almost seems to need to throw up, and her face muscles twitch in a way no one around her has seen before. Torvald, who could never expect this reaction from a woman, accuses her of being ill. Nora, shocked at her new sense of clarity, leaves her home, leaving behind those who have seen her as a doll for too long, and who she cannot promise anything to anymore.
I went to see A Doll’s House without any prior knowledge and now cannot wait to find out more about Nora’s role.