A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen - Review

Ex-soap actress changes into an engaging doll

IBSEN'S A Doll's House shocked late 19th Century audiences by depicting a wife and mother who was prepared to put her obligations to herself before her duty to her husband and child. Nora Helmer is a young wife who abdicates from any independent thought in order to be the model wife for her older husband Torvald.

More like a father than a husband, Torvald is jealously possessive and forever guiding his poor innocent wife in the ways of moral righteousness. It is only when Nora is forced to act independently by secretly borrowing money for the sake of her gravely ill husband's life that she begins to question the working s of the world around her.

As a woman, Nora would have been unable to borrow money without male consent, so she forges her dying father's signature. When this deed comes back to haunt her, Nora is shocked by a law that would punish a wife for trying to save her husband. Her disillusionment is sealed when her husband, on finding out about her criminal actions, cares only about protecting her reputation in the eyes of the world.

Victoria Gould, best known for her role as mouthy journalist Polly in EastEnders, gave an engaging performance as Nora. Modern audiences are unlikely to accept a woman quite as pathetically deluded as Ibsen's original, which makes this a very challenging role. Possibly aware of this dilemma, Gould seemed a little too worldly-wise from the outset. However, she managed to keep the character real, without completely diluting the impact of Nora's sudden awakening or the tension of her sense of foreboding as she awaits her fate.

However, it was Tim Blissett who stole the show, with a totally convincing portrayal of the worthy Torvald, who loves to patronise his young wife but in the end is left devastated when she no longer needs him.

Despite the peculiarity of many of the lines (it is hard to imagine many modern-day husbands addressing their wives as "my little song bird"), he delivered every word with total conviction. Whether at his most excruciatingly arrogant or abjectly defeated, Blissett made sure Torvald was always thoroughly believable.

The closing moments of Ibsen's play are crucial to how the audience view Nora's actions. Director Dermot Keaney gave the ending an interesting twist.

Emma Smith - Argus April 2000