DOLL'S HOUSE ****
of York's, London, August 8-October 26
Theatre August 20-September 15
Royal Winchester September 20-21
mark of a really great performance in a classic play is that it can make a
piece you think you’re bored of seem fresh. That’s exactly what Hattie Morahan
does as Nora in Carrie Cracknell’s production of Ibsen’s A DOLL'S HOUSE. Ever
since it was first produced in 1879 it’s scarcely been out of favour. At first
it was controversial in its depiction of a woman walking out on her family but
in recent decades it’s often enjoyed as a good family melodrama with a great
leading role for an actress. What’s initially surprising is quite how
irritating Morahan makes Nora. It’s an incredibly brave choice to give full
rein to the spoilt twitters and baby talk of this trophy wife but then it becomes
intoxicating as you recognise the complex woman trapped in the role her husband
has defined for her.
a blackmail plot but on this occasion the creaky twists and turns of the plot
are given a refreshing credibility thanks to the no-nonsense realism the cast
adaptation is by Simon Stephens whose brought a lot of first-hand experience of
living with an alcoholic to the booze soaked climactic scene which gains an
electric intensity. Neither Stephens or Ibsen regard Nora as the plucky heroine
it often suits feminists to see. Instead she’s a victim of circumstance and
it’s by no means certain that she won’t come crawling back to her husband the
all staged on an oft revolving set showing all the rooms in the family
apartment. Each rotation, beautifully underscored, seems to tighten the noose
around the protagonists. Fascinating and highly recommended.
Up Close are based at the Kings Head Theatre in Islington and they specialize
in pared down productions of opera, performed simply with a few musicians and a
few central performers, usually without a chorus. They’re so successful that
for the past three years they’ve transferred to the Soho Theatre for a West End
summer season. This time it’s the turn of Tosca to get the treatment.
of the most popular pieces in the repertoire it tells how a beautiful young
singer falls into the clutches of a lascivious and evil military policeman
whilst trying to save her brother and artist lover from his persecution.
Directors have set it in many time periods over the years and on this occasion
director and adaptor Adam Spreadbury-Maher cleverly sets it in
East Germany during the Stasi period.
It’s all very bleak aesthetically (filing
cabinets and beige lino) and it took me a while to marry the lush romance of
the music with the cold austerity of the stage pictures. But the incredible
Puccini tunes start to work their magic and I was soon rapt a-new by the oft
told story, with the sparsely populated scenes and back-to-basic orchestration
for three musicians pulling its genius to sharp focus.
In such an exposing production is lucky
that the direction, acting and singing are so good.
second classic given new life thanks to a fresh approach.