Fearless (Re)Discovery

A DOLL’S HOUSE

People who have been going to the Gate Theatre in London regularly know about Carrie Cracknell the director. But attending her production of A Doll’s House at the Young Vic has made me put her in the category of directors whose work I want to follow.

There were many exciting things about this interpretation — not least the very intelligent and dramatic adaptation by Simon Stephens, who was doing Ibsen’s play for the fourth time. This time he has certainly cracked it, and the set and costumes by Ian MacNeill and Gabrielle Dalton completely enhance his concept. This is a reading that makes you think about how revolutionary the play must have been to its first audiences. Cracknel places it in its original period (it was first produced in 1879), but the set itself is a kind of overgrown late-Victorian early-modernist doll’s house inhabited by the characters, a house that turns when people move from room to room so that the action is always near the audience. The performances of Hattie Morahan as Nora, Dominic Rowan as Torvald and Susannah Wise as Kristine, in particular, are astonishing in their detail and how well they convey the various emotions—or lack of same. And the sense of the family and its situation is very comprehensively and intensely conveyed.

But the real discovery is clearly Carrie Cracknell, who has made of this play something fresh, astonishing and strong. The night I went the audience actually gasped at times, it was so involved and somehow so surprised, and even laughed in many places, reminding one of the elements of black comedy in Ibsen that often get overlooked. The sense of ensemble, of everyone on that stage not only inhabiting his or her role but working with and off the others, is very potent. With its swirling and twirling set, it was a brilliantly choreographed production. Nobody tripped and it was only afterwards that I wondered at the sheer audacity of the technique. It was utterly absorbing. I can hardly wait to see what Carrie Cracknell takes on next and how she handles it; and I will keep you informed in good time.

A Doll’s House played at the Young Vic in London until 4 August,
but I would not be surprised if there is a subsequent transfer
to a suitable West End  theatre.                                   —MC

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