Thurs 23rd - Sat 25th November & Tues 28th November - Sat 2nd December 1995
Directed by Jacquie Penrose
The Helmers are the perfect couple, but behind the facade of their happy marriage lies Nora's secret... As fresh and vibrant as when it was first performed, Ibsen's play rings like a cry of defiance in the face of all petty oppression and domestic tyranny.
'A Doll's House' was written in 1879 and caused a huge controversy even before its premiere at the Theatre Royal Copenhagen. It sold out in the two and a half weeks between its first publication and performance and was considered scandalous by those in authority, both in its treatment of marriage and for the fact that the heroine stands up for herself.
It tells the story of the childish Nora Helmer, a wife prized by her husband Torvald for her good looks and devotion to him. In order to pay for a trip to help Torvald's ailing health, Nora secretly commits fraud. But her crime is discovered by her husband's disgraced employee Krogstad, who callously blackmails her. Nora loves her husband above all else. But when she risks her reputation in order to save his, she begins to question her devotion and finds herself fighting for her own life. Nora's opinions and feelings are not very well respected in the society of the time. She is a "doll wife" - just there for show and when she commits the forgery troubles for both of them loom large.
The play is a powerful statement of his Ibsen's radical beliefs about gender, the folly of idealism and the nature of modern love. He allowed his heroine, Nora Helmer, not only to speak her mind about the loveless sham marriage with her husband Torvald, but also to take a moral stand to preserve her own integrity by leaving home and turning her back on the awful, duplicitous and diseased life they had both been enduring. In essence, it is the story of woman who wakes up to reality. The married life of Nora Helmer is based on a lie. Victorian hypocrisies of integrity, morality, prestige and status are challenged at their very basic level.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Nora Helmer||Ali Bullivant|
|Torvald Helmer||Steven Foden|
|Christine Linde||Sally Hartley|
|Nils Krogstad||Damon Wakelin|
|Dr Peter Rank||Peter Corrigan|
|The Helmer Children||Pippa Fairhall |
|Stage Manager||Gemma Harding|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Geina Cantle|
|Lighting and Sound||Andrew Caple|
|Set Design||Jacquie Penrose|
|Set Construction||David Penrose|
An amateur group that takes on one of Ibsen's mighty dramas is either bold or rash, depending on its degree of success. Put Bench Theatre on the side of the bold. Jacquie Penrose's production, heavy on irony and sharp in counter-point, is admirably lucid in presenting the story of a woman for whom exposure of a past misdeed provokes realisation of the suffocating nature of her marriage.
Nora Helmer, the heroine, is a monster role for any actress, amateur or pro, and Ali Bullivant catches both her girlishness and her moments of dignity. But she overdoes the childlike quality so that Nora's awakening comes like a both from the blue rather than as natural growth. There needs to be a sense of playing up to Torvald's treatment of her as his doll. If the actress could relax a little, not try so hard in her twittering and fluttering, she could achieve greater depth of characterisation. At times it might help if the director were to give her more natural movement, leaving her less dependent on hand gestures.
Fine dramatic contrast is provided by Steve Foden's Torvald - coldly understated, proving his pettiness by his reaction to being called petty, and then declining into whimpering childishness as he sees the real woman emerge in Nora. Other well-focused performances come from Sally Hartley as the grey Christine, Damon Wakelin as the man who provokes the marriage crisis, and Pete Corrigan, playing the old doctor with lip-smacking relish.
The past two professional productions of the play I have seen kept the Helmers' children firmly off-stage. Here three juniors perform splendidly. Boldness indeed!
The News, 24th November 1995