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A Doll’s House - Ensemble Theatre (NSW)

Written by Henrik Ibsen, adapted for the stage by Joanna Murray-Smith, directed by Mark Kilmurry

Review by Vaanie Krishnan

A Doll’s House is a three-act play written by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen that first debuted in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1879. It follows the life of Nora, a married woman with two children, who through a series of encounters, reveals a number of secrets she has been keeping from her husband. In the process of trying to keep these secrets and be the dutiful and obedient wife she is meant to be, she comes to a number of realisations that shake her and her marriage to its core. Joanna Murray-Smith’s shortened adaptation has the bones of the feminist original but lacks some of the heart.

The themes in Ibsen’s play are still relevant today. We are all still trying to find balance in romantic and platonic relationships. We are all still trying to manage the tension between the life we have and the one we imagined for ourselves. This adaptation touches on all of these key themes. Nora’s (Chantelle Jameison) journey is an emotional act of self-realisation, emotions run high, but the stakes never quite feel high enough to justify them.

Key confessions or light-bulb moments throughout the play often feel like they have come without thought or deliberation. One moment Nora is anxious about her husband finding out her secret, the next she is talking about ending her life. Perhaps this is partly due to choices in direction (Mark Kilmurry) but Jamieson’s performance as Nora sometimes feels over the top and lacking nuance. This combined with the choppiness of the script means that she is never quite able to get the audience on her side.

Performances by James Lugton as Nora’s husband, and Tim Walter as George are comparatively brilliant, they feel much more balanced in their performances, bringing humour and maturity to the emotional journeys of their characters.

Direction by Kilmurry is quite physical, and uses the small space well. The round lounge room set (Veronique Benett) is a convincing place for upper class worries but fails to take advantage of the unique amphitheatre seating at the Ensemble Theatre.

Benett has tucked away little rooms that the actors come in and out of (sometimes play piano in) that are not visible to 60% of the audience. Actor positioning and direction also doesn’t take into account audience position (actors often sit with their backs to the audience), a lost opportunity to bring the full experience to the theatre enthusiasts who could only afford the bleachers. Lighting by Verity Hampson is minimal and tasteful, mimicking the softness of a chandelier you would imagine of upperclassman.

Those who are fans of the original play and know it well will enjoy this adaptation. Layers of meaning emerge that may not be obvious at first but will linger with you after the show is done.

A Doll's House plays at the Ensemble Theatre until the 16th July 2022. Tickets can be booked here.

CREATIVES Playwright Henrik Ibsen Adaptor JOANNA MURRAY-SMITH Director MARK KILMURRY Understudy Director SOPHIE KELLY Set & Costume Designer VERONIQUE BENETT Lighting Designer VERITY HAMPSON Composer & Sound Designer DARYL WALLIS Intimacy Coordinator SHONDELLE PRATT Stage Manager RYAN TATE Costume Supervisor EVELYN EVERAERTS-DONALDSON




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