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August 14, 2017 | by  | in Theatre |
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A Doll’s House — Katherine MacRae (adapted by Emily Perkins)

A Doll’s House is the second adaption of a Henrik Ibsen play Circa have done this year, and I am not complaining. Three Days in the Country came out back in May and it was an abundant, sentimental, and optimistically romantic play. The Doll’s House, however, sends its audience crashing to earth.

This is writer Emily Perkins’ first transition from page to stage and it comes across as effortless. There is no question as to why she received the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature. Her dialogue has a magnetic but domestic quality; a sort of heightened realism that many modern writers try to aim for but don’t quite reach. This is a play which might engross a wider audience than one might initially think; its postmodern and simplistic set may give off the vibe of “theatrical elitism and fragmented storylines,” but it was both entertaining and accessible.

The real winners of the show were the actors. Sophie Hambleton plays Nora, a housewife who gets into trouble and ends up in a tunnel of lies and deceit in a desperate attempt to prevent her husband from finding out. Her role was tough — Nora was both likeable and flawed — but Hambleton had such great energy, and it came across like she was enjoying herself and the role she was playing. Arthur Meek played the husband, Theo, perfectly capturing his laid-back and sensitive personality, and executing palpable chemistry with Hambleton’s Nora. The actors playing the family’s children were also excellent, coming across naturally and easing the tension during the more tense and dramatic scenes.

But I do have a problem with the play when we break it down thematically and explore its message. Central is the importance of telling the truth and being honest in relationships, especially during tough times. Nora’s problems started with a lie to her husband, and because of that she finds herself in so much trouble she doesn’t know who to turn to. The second theme, more underlying, but revealed near the end, is domestic boredom and existential restlessness. This second theme takes over and the first, about honesty, gets swept aside. I understand why: Nora represents a lot of people, and everyone loves a story about people finding freedom and being liberated from the chains that are holding them down. However, the first theme is left unresolved and, in the play’s worst moments, it validates dishonesty and running away from your problems. Theo is right: when you’ve got struggles, talk about it. Work things through. That’s how relationships work. Fleeing doesn’t solve your problems.

Despite this issue, A Doll’s House is still a well-acted and directed play. It will engage you, not letting you go until the end. I would recommend going down to Circa to see it this weekend. Take a friend as well; it’s a play you’ll want to discuss and debate once the curtains close.

 

Circa Theatre is currently offering tickets for $25 for those 25-years old and under. Find out more at www.circa.co.nz.

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