In retrospect: S.T.A.G. on Ibsen.

Having seen S.T.A.G.’s* version of  ‘A Dolls House’ in October 2009, you can safely assume that this review will be somewhat retrospective, so i must apologise for that in advance,  (you might be able to tell that my whole sense of temporality is generally fuddled at the moment) however! I feel that i cannot blog again (no melodrama intended), until i post my first attempt to write from a critical perspective. Erego, (drum roll please, it has been a long time coming…)

Shute Church.

‘A Doll’s House’, written by Ibsen, directed by Victoria Pierce, and performed in a small country church in the village of Shute.

The most obvious difference between this production and more ‘traditional’ interpretations of ‘A Dolls House’, was the directorial decision to visually portray the duality of the main character, by having two actors play the role simultaneously.

At the risk of sounding non-commital, the success of using two ‘Noras’ very much depends on your point of view; It did create an interesting dynamic, visually portraying an almost ‘mother-daughter’ relationship between Nora’s inner child (played by Helena Laughton) and the more mature, independent woman they collectively desired to be (played by Elina Baker).

However, some may argue that this concept created too strong a visual divide of the characters’ personality, conflicting against ideas of singular communion with the inner self as per the implications in Ibsen’s text. This meant that the transition from Nora’s position of dependence and childishness, to womanhood and individuality was not quite so obvious. On the other hand, this division did  lead to a deeper investiagation of the character, and was aptly demonstrated through the performances of the two actors.

Helena Laughton gave an enthusiastic rendition of a spoilt, but effectively good natured child; suitably expressive in her portrayal of youthful naivety and innocence. Ms. Laughton also demonstrated an enviable attention span, as even when she had no dialogue herself, she reacted to unfurling conversations as if for the first time and with suprisingly detailed facial expression. Elina Baker, the adult version of Nora Helmer, was suitably more insistent than her inner child, and managed to be both succinct in delivery, whilst maintaining graces of sincerity and motherly care.

There was also no shortage of dramatic capability from the rest of the cast: often portrayed as a one dimensional melodramatic villain, ‘Krogstad’ was successfully portrayed by John Currall, whose rendition created a character both un-likeable, yet worthy of empathy by the time the full story had unfurled: the epitome of the desperate man, looking for a way out of poverty. Currall was very concise in his use of gesture and change of vocal expression, and the few line fluffs there were, were recovered from well.

It has to be said that there was a slightly odd family dynamic created by the interaction between ‘Torvald’ and the adolescent Nora: there was visual (but understandable) reluctance to be too intimate with such a young actress, where as the relationship with the adult Nora was far more convincing and felt much less awkward.

Young Nora Helmer & Torvald

As far as i’m concerned, this is inevitable when casting in Am-dram, where the age of the players available, and whom have the time to commit to such a project, may be different from the original directorial vision. Another instance which highlights this point, was the plot detail claiming that ‘Krogstad’, ‘Torvald’ and ‘Dr.Rank’ had apparently ‘grown up together’, yet the noticeable age gap between the three actors left that particular somewhat discredited. This is not a criticism on part of either director, or actors, whom in fact established convincing rapports with each other, merely an observation which somewhat jilted the smooth factual delivery of the play at certain moments.

Despite a few conceptual hiccups, this rendition was an interesting and individual take on the text, well executed by the cast and crew, and ultimately well received by the audience.”

Phew, a review three months in the making, but tis ere now none-the-less.

*S.T.A.G. (Shute Theatre Arts Guild)

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