A Doll's House (Donmar, 20th June 2009)

In the intimate space of the Donmar, A Doll’s House felt so much like a proscenium arch play. What I mean by this is that, as the audience, we are not invited into the world of the play. It is a play about secrets that happen behind closed doors, and I felt that I was peeping behind those closed doors, hidden from those performing. In A Doll’s House, ‘reputation’ is so important, that having a public face turns the husband, in this case, Thomas (Toby Stephens), into such a monster. Thomas’s fury, at the news that Nora (Gillian Anderson) has committed fraud, is terrifying, as well as so menacing and is so in keeping with the personality we’ve seen bubbling up through the production. Even more shocking is the hypocrisy Thomas displays as he suddenly changes moods and tries to treat his wife like a small fragile child- the doll in the doll’s house.

In this version of A Doll’s House the family are moving in so there are packing cases and empty shelves. The marriage is empty, the emotions and connections still hidden away like the objects in those packing cases. Even before Kelman (Christopher Eccleston) explodes into the household, things are not well before this. Kelman is only the catalyst that moves the inevitable closer. I didn’t feel that Kelman is disrupting domestic bliss, but a world that is cold and communication between a married couple just doesn’t exist. Nora says one thing and Thomas just doesn’t understand, even when it is so simple as putting a Christmas decoration on a tree. Gillian Anderson’s Nora was so controlled, her emotions work on different levels, but she is so adept at expressing that she is trying to conceal these and showing all. There are no confessions or soliloquies to draw an audience, we watch what she feels in her face, her trembling body and I felt the audiences feels her fear of rejection.

Even without audience interaction, the play reminded me so much of The Winter’s Tale, especially the Old Vic production. The friend, Christina (Tara Fitzgerald) thinking she will do the right thing, in this case letting Thomas find the letter, could be compared to Paulina’s act of giving Leontes the baby, believing absolutely that Leontes seeing the baby will bring him to his senses. Both women just don’t account for the deep routed pride that makes these men reject their wives and puts their honour above any rational thinking.

It is at the moment, Nora understands the truth about her husband and how he responds no longer frightens her and she can leave the one room stage set. I felt once witnessing that rejection, she no longer feared it.

When Nora walks off the stage at the end of the Donmar production, in just her day dress and coat, I was waiting…….. anticipating the door slamming shut. There is silence in the auditorium as the audience waits and there it is… probably the second most famous stage direction in drama… ‘The heavy sound of a door being slammed is heard from below’.*

* Oxford UP translation

Reviews and Previews

A Doll’s House, Donmar, London
The Observer,…

A Doll’s House The Official London Theatre Guide
FT.com / UK – A timely take on political hypocrisy
A Doll’s House, at the Donmar Warehouse – revie…
A Doll’s House at the Donmar Warehouse, WC2 – T…
A Doll’s House – A Doll’s House – Review – What…
The Stage / Reviews / A Doll’s House
A Doll’s House, Donmar Warehouse, London – Revi…
The Stage / News / Stephens and Eccleston join …
A Doll’s House: Another house, another scandal …
Theatre review: A Doll’s House / Donmar Warehou…
Full cast joins Anderson in Doll’s House The …

A Doll's House Donmar

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