A doll house; childish, pretty and simple. La Boite’s imaginative re-working of Henrink Ibsen’s classic is anything but. For those who aren’t familiar with Ibsen’s original, A Doll’s House is the story of Nora, a housewife who risks her family’s reputation by unlawfully taking out a loan to save her husband Torvald from a certain death. She is proud of herself, of her initiative and her determination to make the repayments despite the restrictions on her allowance from her husband. However, forces outside of Nora’s control are at play, and soon she finds herself at the mercy of a blackmailer, Krogstad, a man who will do anything to keep his job in Torvald’s bank. The entire construction of the play is faultless, from the kooky costuming and eerie set design (here thanks to Dan Potra) to the characters’ Shakesperean-esque musical soliloquys (Dane Alexander). Prolific and edgy Australian playwright Lally Katz also deserves a fair chunk of credit for breathing some freshness into the 19th century play with some radical re-writings, such as Torvald’s affectionate referrals to Nora as a flighty hummingbird as opposed to the original ‘little squirrel’. The direction at first feels rather odd, as the characters never interact with each other face-to-face, instead speaking to the air opposite. However, as the performance goes on, and the audience becomes accustomed to this strange habit, the effect is extremely powerful. Although the criticisms are few, they are significant. Heavy, bass music thumps at a head-achingly loud volume during the second interval, driving the entire audience out to wait in the draughty and overcrowded foyer area. The music continues to throb at a low volume throughout the last act, underneath a light classical score, which causes one to question their sanity and wonder whether they are actually hearing something or if their ears haven’t stopped ringing. Additionally, Nora’s final monologue dragged on far too long, with Torvald calling her back no less than four or five different times, and was salted too heavily with radical second-wave feminist sentiments. No doubt her point is important, but the manner in which it was delivered probably turned a lot of her audience off. All in all, La Boite’s A Doll’s House is one for the gutsy and the bold, those who can hold their own in a controversial and confronting performance and still come out of the theatre with the ghost of a smile on their lips. Props to all involved. This writer for one can’t wait to see what awaits us at The Roundhouse for next year’s Brisbane Festival.
AUTHOR: Mel Keyte
IMAGES: courtesy of La Boite Theatre