Joanna Murray-Smith’s tangy update of Ibsen’s 1879 drama brings the play seamlessly into the present with a couple of minor characters cut and Ibsen’s melodramatic twists pretty much intact.
Here, Nora’s husband Torvald (James Lugton) is a banking executive about to be boosted into the top seat in the wake of a corporate scandal. He’s just the kind of squeaky-clean chap they need and because of that, boasts Nora (Chantelle Jamieson) to her unlucky-in life friend Kristina (an excellent Lizzie Schebesta), the Helmer’s are going to be “rolling in it.” Nora is a stranger to tact among other things.
But before that unseemly rolling commences, Nora must somehow deal with issues threatening her prosperity and security. A disgruntled bank employee, Krogstad (David Soncin), holds the documents to a big loan she obtained without her husband’s knowledge – and with a forged signature to boot.Even if she can pay it off without Torvald finding out, the possibility of blackmail remains.
From the get-go of director Mark Kilmurry’s production, as we watch Nora unpack a pile of Christmas gifts while trying to justify her extravagance and confirm her irresistible charm, it’s clear she’s a woman already at breaking point. Jamieson double underlines that impression by playing Nora with a manic eagerness to please, a hysterical note that dominates her performance.
By contrast, Lugton makes Torvald an entirely affable and relaxed presence – which leaves us suitably unprepared for the ferocity of his response to Nora’s confession of her fraud. After unfolding steadily but without much tension, A Doll’s House blazes briefly into life at that moment.