In this play directed by Adrian Tang, the word that comes best to mind is uncomfortable. Whether it it’s the strange age gap between the protagonist and her husband (that had every woman in the audience visibly cringing when they touched each other) or the awkward pauses in the action, the play does well to encapsulate the entrapping awfulness of the 19th century for women.
Much of this comes from the script itself, where Torvald Helmer refers to his wife as a child or ‘little one’ or talks about her possessively repeatedly. He also reminds her often that she couldn’t possibly understand anything because she’s a silly little woman, which as a modern audience is hard to hear. The production of the play plays well on this misogyny and the discomfort that comes with it, through the stiff delivery of Torvald, compared to the passionate displays from Dr. Rank and Krogstad.
A play like this, with something as dramatic as someone leaving behind their life (including their children) at the end, would be misrepresented if the audience could sit undisturbed in their chairs. It’s not a production that is necessarily fun, so much as it is necessary in its portrayal of gender relations at the time that it was written, also a stark reminder of the less than perfect condition in which they remain today.
That being said, there were occasions in which the play did earn a laugh or two from the audience, and this is due in most to the comedic timing, and all-round great performance, of the lead, Tara O’Connor. An emotionally complex character, Nora is hard to nail, but she did an excellent job of bringing the young woman, in all her struggles and uncertainty, to life. Another great moment comes when Nora shows off her new stockings to Dr. Rank, and the play satirises the Victorian prudeness that we all know and love. Nora raises her skirts to scandalously reveal her ankle, and like the 19th century porn that that is, the good doctor is affected as expected!
There was another moment in the play, however, that did it quite a disservice. I’m referring to an unnecessarily awkward scene change in the second act. Where the rest of the play moves arguably quite smoothly, for some reason, shortly after the interval, there is a man that comes on after one scene to tidy away a few objects and pull out the table. In his jeans and black top with an unfortunately exposed (to say it somewhat nicely) rear cleavage, he was sorely out of place and performing a task that easily could have been completed by the maid character within the story, so as not to break the audience’s attention from the play.
Ultimately, for a play that is self-described as ‘amateur’ on the website, it’s pretty good, and it’s not a stretch to say that I can see some of those involved making a dent in the industry at some point, for now it’s worth a watch, as much for the important message of the play as for the raunchy ankle reveals.