Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Dollhouse, Sep 20, 2011

The Dollhouse, at fortyfivedownstairs ** 1/2

DO NOT expect the famous slam of a door at the end of this adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's 19th-century play about marital breakdown and female emancipation. 

Daniel Schlusser's playful and truncated production is more a deconstruction than an adaptation of Ibsen.

The actors improvise around the text and characters, transposing them into a contemporary context, simplifying dialogue and streamlining the narrative and interpolating modern references and music.

Unfortunately, this style eliminates the subtlety and complexity of Ibsen's characters, his finely wrought dialogue and the intricate social and political implications of his plot, leaving us with an entertaining but shallow version of the play.

The five actors give relaxed and committed performances in this modernised Dollhouse.

Nicki Shiels plays Nora as a shrill, vain, bratty girl without boundaries, but this interpretation omits any sense of Nora's socially sanctioned oppression by her husband and her growing awareness that she is a caged bird who must fly.

Kade Greenland as Torvald, her self-centred husband, is a modern dilettante, but he lacks the ruthless ambition and male chauvinism of Ibsens Torvald. Edwina Wren as Kristine, Josh Price as Dr. Rank and Schlusser as Krogstad complete the playful cast.

The stark, metallic wall of the design (Jeminah Reidy) contrasts with the chaotic clutter of children's toys and adult playthings.

This production is entertaining but it is not Ibsen, nor does it illuminate Ibsen's notions of oppressive social mores or marital relationships.

We miss the complexity of Nora's disintegrating psychological landscape and her loss of faith in the security of her marriage. And we miss the final door slam.

THE DOLLHOUSE, fortyfivedownstairs (45 Flinders Lane, City), until October 9, 2011

Star rating: ** 1/2

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