A Doll's House: Royal Exchange

I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was father's doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls.

By Manchester's Finest | May 10th '13

“I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was father’s doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls.”- Nora

A new translation of Ibsen’s classic A Doll’s House opened this week at Manchester’s Royal Exchange, running till June 1st. The controversial play, which shocked audiences back in 1879 for its ground breaking themes, has been given a makeover by Bryony Lavery who has made the text both snappy and slick.

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A Doll’s House is a story of domestic revolution, female empowerment and the journey towards self-liberation, it queries aspirations, success and what it means to raise a happy family. Nora Helmer, a young wife and mother is married to Torvald, a recently promoted bank manager. The pair seem to have an idyllic life until a terrible secret from Nora’s past comes back to haunt her and she begins to question their world.

Director Greg Hersov takes the helm guiding a stellar cast led by the new ‘darling’ of the theatre world, Cush Jumbo as Nora.

It’s Jumbo’s third outing at Manchester’s well renowned theatrical venue having previously wowed audiences at the Exchange in Pygmalion and As You Like It. Once again the Olivier award nominated actress triumphs here.

Cush serves up a delicious portrayal of child-like Nora, full to the brim of coquettishness and flightiness, which has the audience mesmerised for the whole time she is on stage (quite a feat considering Jumbo is in almost every scene during the 2 hour play).

There’s something very simple about this whole production resulting in the action washing over the audience. The set remains static throughout depicting the Helmer’s living room and, being performed ‘in the round’ the staging gives Jumbo the perfect platform to lead other cast members around as she holds court as Nora.

Kelly Hotten as down-trodden Christine Linde serves up a fine antithesis to the excitable Nora producing some electric and fast paced duologues between her and Jumbo. Jamie De Courcey should also be noted for his superb and understated portrayal of the unfortunate Dr. Rank.

Richard Howell’s lighting and Emma Laxton’s sound are deliberately kept to a minimum without fuss or complexity, accentuating the fact it is the acting here which is the main focus -there are no added extras required.

A diverse audience made up of the over 50s, students and mid twenties cultural set proves Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ still appeals to a wide range, despite his work being over a century old. Whether or not the play’s themes are still as shocking to today’s audience remain to be seen although the final door slam still has the desired effect and is a knee-jerking end to a thoroughly engaging and thoughtful production.

Highlight: The rehearsal of Nora’s Tarantella dance where Cush Jumbo delivers a performance so manic and desperate it really did appear she was, as her husband Torvald says, ‘dancing as if her life depended on it’.

LISTINGS
01 May 13 – 01 June 13
Box Office on 0161 833 9833
The Royal Exchange Theatre, St Ann’s Square, Manchester, M2 7DH
www.royalexchange.co.uk