Show: A Doll’s House, Part
Venue: Donmar Warehouse. 41 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LX
Credits: By Lucas Hnath
A Doll’s House, Part 2
Noma Dumezweni (as Nora). Photo: Marc Brenner
So what does Nora do after she leaves Torvald at the end of Ibsen’s play? It’s a question many writers have tried to answer. In Lucas Hnath’s engaging, four hander, ninety-minute sequel Nora has spent fifteen years establishing herself as a successful independent woman but now returns – with questions and a request.
Noma Dumezweni is stonkingly good as Nora. Statusesque, elegant and articulate she towers over everyone else in every sense. She is variously sardonic, poised, determined, distressed, reasonable and furious. Her Nora is a charismatic force to be reckoned with and I have rarely seen an actor listen so expressively.
And June Watson (87) happily refuting the notion that there are no good parts for women is a delight as the grumpy, irascible, forthright Anne Marie. Brian F O’Byrne is plausible as Torvald especially in the later scenes while Patricia Allison is suitably chirpy as his daughter, Emmy.
The other star in this show is Rae Smith’s set which gives us a house on the Donmar’s central playing space. As you take your seats you can see only its oppressive walls. Then the lights go down and the whole structure lifts off dramatically – like a doll’s house – to reveal a sparsely furnished room. It’s both neat and symbolically ingenious.
Ibsen’s play was premiered in 1890 so we’re now in 1905 – with rather lovely period costumes. Hnath’s language, however, is firmly 2022 (“kids” “I get it” etc). Although there is humour in the incongruity of Watson’s elderly character declaring that she’s pissed off, and there’s a lot of that sort of thing, it doesn’t make for convincing coherence and feels wrong.
In A Doll’s House Ibsen explores marriage in a partriarchal society. Although the situation still isn’t perfect things are very different today with much greater equality for women, at least in the West and those improvements, in both Norway and the UK, are charted in the programme for A Doll’s House Part 2. Many of the battles are won. So I left the theatre puzzling over why exactly we need a new play now which examines and challenges obsolete laws and attitudes – although it’s certainly entertaining.