A Doll’s House is one of Henrik Ibsen’s most famous plays. For many people it ranks with other classic works such as Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler as ‘difficult ‘ or ‘challenging’ for both audience and actor alike. And at first sight, that’s probably a fair judgement. In its original text and early translations, the play is heavy on exposition and explanation and rather light on pace and plot.
That’s missing the point.
Ibsen was known as ‘the great realist’ in his own day and perhaps that’s why his plays are harder work for modern audiences – what was realistic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is pretty far removed from common experience today. A Doll’s House looks at people trying to escape from constricting social norms and the impact is clearly lost when those norms are no longer representative or relevant.
Through the character of Nora, A Doll’s House questions the role of women in society; her assertion that she is first and foremost an individual rather than a wife, mother or fragile doll was a shocking concept in its day.
Thankfully, society has moved on, but that doesn’t make the play purely a period piece.
The Samuel Adamson translation that New Forest Players are performing retains all of the polemical from Ibsen’s plot, and throws light on themes at the heart of the story that Pinter or Stoppard would find familiar – claustrophobic relationships, inertia, dissolving personality and lost opportunities.
We find a play true to Ibsen’s concept, with pace and threat which connects with a wide audience.
For the players, however, the difficulty and challenge is unchanged. In many ways, it’s an even harder job. The safety net of working with a much-performed text is taken away; the daunting task of interpreting a classic play remains and on top of this is the need to take each character through their journey in a skilful and balanced way.
Luckily, New Forest Players have pulled together a truly talented cast. Drawing on professional expertise and award-winning experience, they are a team who are already bringing energy and insight to this production.
A Doll’s House will be performed from 25 to 29 October at Ballard School.