A Doll's House (Brasenose Arts Week)

Mon 7th – Sat 12th May 2012

reviews

Rosalind Gealy

at 13:30 on 8th May 2012

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Upon arriving at Brasenose for the first night of A Doll’s House, I was (literally) impressed by a stamp of the fetching Brasenose Arts Week moustache serving as my ticket. This was only the beginning. Their production sucked the audience into a strangely naturalistic world of marital inequality, suspect business deals and betrayal, played out in a deceptively cosy drawing room.

The bizarre marital relationship is well depicted by Natasha Heliotis and Peter Huhne, their cloying exchanges showing how Nora is infantilised by her husband. Although this unfortunate relationship is the basis for the play’s tragic elements it also provides a lot of dark comedy in the form of throwaway chauvinistic comments, sincerely delivered by Huhne. One of my favourites went along the lines of “you go and play with your tambourine and I’ll lock myself in my study where I won’t be able to hear anything”. If that sounds naughty to anyone then they will also appreciate the extremely awkward moments when Torvald feels like exercising his rights as a husband over a wife whom he also likes to think of as his “child”.

This household is threatened by Krogstad, a lawyer who blackmails Nora for a crime unknown to her husband. Nora is somewhat supported by her two friends, Mrs Linde and Dr Rank, but ultimately takes full responsibility and develops into a stronger person as a result. It is a strong cast, and each character’s motivations are skilfully revealed. Aleks Cvetkovic plays Krogstad with a menacing restraint which is transformed into something lighter at the intervention of Lara Tandy’s earnest Mrs Linde. Harry Gillow presents a sympathetic doctor who is an effective contrast to the overbearing Torvald.

I don’t have many criticisms, but would definitely suggest that some of the actors speak a little louder so that their performances come across fully to the audience. Conversely, in my opinion the ending could benefit from slightly less shouting, although this is personal preference. At times some of the blocking felt a tad odd, as certain actors turned their backs to the audience too frequently. While this gave me a great opportunity to admire Krogstad’s coat from all angles (it really is very similar to the celebrated Belstaff in Sherlock) I would have preferred to see the expressions on his face. First night nerves meant that a few words were stumbled over but the cast can afford to have more confidence in their performances. They (alongside the directors!) have created an extremely engaging production that it would be a shame to miss. Wrap up warm and become a fly on the drawing room wall.

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