It will always be fascinating to revisit this remarkable play and see how it reflects the current zeitgeist. It’s equally exciting to watch a young actor take on the colossal role of Nora and see what she will bring to it. And in this case Hattie Morahan is tremendous (as, no doubt, her mother Anna Carteret was in the same role in the 1980s). She is a complex and energetic heroine, her voice warm, controlled and rich, fully inhabiting each painful moment as her life unravels before our eyes. She starts out as a girl who clearly enjoys shopping and chocolate above all, she’s radiant, she’s sexually clever and has quiet sense of her own worth Then the production leads us through her hard journey of self-discovery, the set spins in cinematic style, rooms flash by, domestic life plays out on a marital merry-go-round and the perilousness of Nora’s situation is gradually revealed; it has the air of a thriller, she seems like an early Hitchcock blonde. But by the end, after a complicated game of sexual cat-and-mouse with her husband, she is ferocious and resolute, a Nora who finds her voice in anger and conviction. She struggles to articulate all that she feels about her life, her marriage and her future, but she is clear in her determination. When the door finally slams, we know this is a woman with an onerous struggle ahead, but she has found the ability to ask the right questions. Meanwhile her husband’s utter inability to understand what’s going on touches us too. As always with this play, things come out anew; I wondered what the original audience made of Christine – she inherits a man’s job and is rather manipulative towards Nora: she too must have been a divisive figure. And in 2013, how easily we understand the financial circumstances that force Nora’s hand. I love how she actively challenges religious values and faith-by-rote alongside her marriage. Ibsen was extraordinarily audacious. The production has a clever period feel that doesn’t mire the production in corsets and bustles, but gives us a good sense of a different age. The whole thing is dynamic, tense and emotionally gripping, the company committed and energetic. I did find myself muttering under my breath, cheering Nora on, willing her to suceed. A Doll’s House is a play that will always come around and reinvent itself and I’ll always be happy to return to it. This production finished its run today, but is rather brilliantly available on Digital Theatre.
There’s a couple of personal notes on this one: the children’s nanny is played here by Leda Hodgson, who, in my former acting life about a hundred years ago, played the evil Ogre opposite my Puss in Boots in panto! And when I was in my final year at Guildhall, I like to think I made a rather fine Dr Rank to Tilly Blackwood‘s cooly seductive Nora. Happy days.