By Gillie Tunley and Brenda Sandilands.
Progress Theatre are staging Ibsen’s timeless classic, ‘A Doll’s House’, in a lovingly crafted production by Adrian Tang. It is a play about domestic revolution and a woman’s place in society and these powerful themes resonate still today.
We are welcomed into the festive sitting room, where preparations for Christmas are underway. When the fluttering songbird Nora (a mesmeric, multi-layered performance by Tara O’Connor) enters and shows off the gifts she has bought to her stolid husband Torvald (played with self-righteous aplomb by Chris Pett), we glimpse the dynamics of their relationship; the ‘fatherly’ Torvald scolds his ‘little skylark’ for spending too much while Nora teases and charms him, childlike.
When Nora’s old friend Kristine (played with sympathetic robustness by Iuliana Tiu) arrives and the secret is revealed, we see another Nora. She is not just the ‘giddy girl’ her husband perceives. She is fiercely independent, a resourceful and shrewd woman who had found a way to finance a life-saving trip for him.
The devastating consequences of this dark secret become apparent with the arrival of the blackmailing Krogstad (a seethingly sullen yet soul searching portrayal by Paul Gallantry). Inevitably, they become entangled in a web of secrecy and deceit.
The darkness is momentarily lightened by an enchanting colour splashed interlude as Nora’s children, Ivor and Emmy (the endearing Rose Martin and Naila Messelles, beribboned in lavender blue) play a charmingly expressive mime game with their maid, Anne-Marie (the delightful Michelle Appleby) to the strains of an evocative Norwegian song.
But the gloom deepens as Nora’s plans to inveigle Dr Rank (an eccentrically touching portrayal by Mikhail Franklin) into rescuing her from ruin crumble as, quite unexpectedly, he declares his love for her.
In a dramatic downward spiral, the disillusioned Nora finally realises her husband is not the man she thought him to be…
This is compelling theatre, don’t miss it.