A Doll’s House
By Henrik Ibsen. A new translation by Simon Stephens.
The slamming of the front door at the end of Ibsen’s delicate and electrifying play shatters the romantic masquerade of Nora and Torvald Helmer’s marriage and is one of the most famous stage directions ever written.
Henrik Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ premiered in 1879 in Copenhagen shocking early audiences with its radical insights into the social roles of husband and wife. The portrayal of his flawed heroine, Nora, remains one of the most striking dramatic depictions of late-nineteenth century woman. The play immediately provoked “a storm of outraged controversy” with its exposure of the hypocrisy of Victorian middle-class marriage. The play, with its brisk and thriller-like plotting, is significant for the way it deals with the fate of a married woman at a time when women lacked reasonable opportunities for self-fulfilment in a male dominated world and were expected to look beautiful, keep a comfortable home and satisfy the needs of their husband.
This play about domestic revolution received world-wide publicity, was discussed by lawyers, attacked in newspapers, periodicals and books and condemned from pulpits. As an incredibly important and powerful piece of theatre, the play and the role of Nora have taken on an iconic status; Unesco’s Memory of the World register calls Nora, “A symbol throughout the world, for women fighting for liberation and equality”.
Universal anxieties around the nature of a woman’s role, marriage and money are still relevant and thought-provoking for today’s audiences. Ibsen is known as the father of modern realism and it is hard to ignore the play’s strong feminist resonances in our current culture where any woman who puts herself in the public eye becomes a target for abuse, where scandals of inappropriate behaviour
towards women in their work place by men in positions of power are all too frequently reported and where the pay gap between men and women remains in evidence. Ibsen himself wrote that women can’t be themselves in an “exclusively male society, with laws made by men and with prosecutors and judges who assess feminine conduct from a masculine standpoint”.
Whilst the landscape of women’s rights has undoubtedly changed over the last 100 years, it is worrying that, after all this time, complex dilemmas for some women in their now multiple roles continue, our representation of women seems to be narrowing and we have a generation of young women who believe that success and power is linked to how they look. However, we mustn’t forget that Ibsen’s central dilemma of how to be true to yourself is relevant to both sexes and that domestic honesty and spiritual liberation is something we all need in our relationships.
This version of Ibsen’s masterpiece by Olivier award-winning playwright Simon Stephens premiered at the Young Vic Theatre, London, on 29 June 2012, to fantastic reviews:
“Simon Stephens’s agile new version [is] … quick and clear and full of subtle touches” – The Guardian
“A sensible, sensitive and spirited version … that chimes with the debt-laden times we’re trapped in and poses still-pressing questions” – Telegraph
“… this definitive take on a classic” – Evening Standard
“An astute, often savagely funny version … And as the doll at the play’s heart and hearth cracks like porcelain and the woman emerges, it’s with a force that’s shattering” – Metro
“… makes the characters’ anxieties feel contemporary despite the period dress. “Feminism” may not have been in Ibsen’s vocabulary, but he was undoubtedly concerned with the roles we all play and why” – Financial Times
A Stables production directed by Sandra Tomlinson.
Nora Helmer – Elly Tipping
Torvald Helmer – David Drey
Dr. Rank – Dominic Campbell
Kristine Linde – Jackie Eichler
Nils Krogstad – Mike Stoneham
Anna – Janet McCarter
Helene – Cleo Veness
Ivar Helmer – Toby Morcrei
Jon Helmer – James Greenhalf