Director Daniel Brooks
Set Designer Lorenzo Savoini
Costumes Designer Victoria Wallace
Lighting Kevin Lamotte
And Sound Designer Richard Feren
Nora Katherine Gauthier
Torvald Christopher Morris
Kristine Linde Oyin Oladejo
Dr. Rank Diego Matamoros
Nils Krogstad Damien Atkins
Runs until August 27, 2016 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Tank House Lane, Toronto, Ontario. www.soulpepper.ca
***** (out of 5)
Here is your chance to see Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House for the first time. You may have seen many other productions but you have never seen anything quite like the one directed by Daniel Brooks for Soulpepper. It is original, riveting and brilliant.
We all know that Nora Helmer, her husband Torvald’s doll, leaves him and her children in a revolutionary gesture of liberation that shocked many people to their roots in 1879. A woman leaving her husband is unlikely to register at all today let alone provoke shock and revulsion.
Christopher Morris, Katherine Gauthier. Photo Cylla von Tiedemann
As adapted by Frank McGuinness, Brooks sets the play in a modern house with contemporary white furniture and a blank wall at the back. It is realistic and unrealistic at the same time. Nora is a modern woman, lively, sexy, loving, perhaps a bit too materialistic and eager to move up the social ladder, but overall a marvelous wife and mother. Make no mistake about Katherine Gauthier’s portrayal. She displays all the latter qualities and shows us her deeper anguish with unerring precision. An astounding performance.
Torvald is a very good husband. He loves his wife, tolerates her spending habits and does everything to maintain a happy house. Nora and Torvald are, sexually, socially, financially, happy, happy, happy. Well, something will come up to shatter all and Christopher Morris will show us another side of Torvald that explains much about the final scene of the play. Kudos to Morris.
We soon realize that most of the characters of A Doll’s House live behind a mask, have a deep secret and are forced to hide behind a hypocritical façade. Nora borrowed forty-eight thousand from Nils Krogstad by forging her father’s signature. Krogstad has an unsavory past. Atkins plays the greasy-haired Krogstad superbly bringing out his anguish, desperation and decency.
Dr. Rank, the ill family friend, has his own secret, which he reveals basically on his way to his deathbed. Nora’s friend Kristine Linde is in the same league. Well done performances by Matamoros and Oladejo.
Diego Matamoros, Christopher Morris, Katherine Gauthier, Oyin Oladejo. Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann
Brooks has given the production a sense of unreality by having the characters enter the stage at times in slow motion as if sleepwalking. The happy façade of Nora and Torvald’s life is palpable and there is nothing to indicate that Nora will or needs to make such a dramatic exit in the end.
The enormous success of the director, the creative team and the actors is to “fool” us into sitting on the edge of our seats about the outcome of those horrible secrets and to have no real appreciation of what is so clearly happening before us. When the masks come off and the hypocrisy is blown away like morning fog we are stunned.
Much credit needs to be given to Frank McGuinness for a fluid adaptation that adds to the acceptance of Nora and Torvald being a modern couple even though there are some obvious elements that are unlikely to be present. Soulpepper tells that this is a translation by McGuiness set in 1996 England. Neither is strictly true. McGuinness took liberties with the text and truly modernized the milieu. The Nora and Torvald of 1879 would never have been shown as being sexually on fire the way they are in this production. And there is really nothing to indicate England.
A maid and a nanny (maybe), a mailbox where people drop off letters and calling cards are not likely to be found even in an upper middle class house.
But no matter. This is why you go to the theatre.