by Henrik Ibsen
Thurs 8th Dec to Sat 10th Dec 2022
Wedmore Village Hall
|Nora Helmer||Carrie Large|
|Torvald Helmer||Alan Philps|
|Christine Linde||Andrea Brenner|
|Nils Krogstad||Will Ewens|
|Dr Rank||David Eccles|
|Emmy Helmer||Ruby Ewens|
|Ivar Helmer||Oliver Large|
|Creative and Production Team:|
|Producers||Judy Phillpotts, Sue Rippon|
|Assistant Director||Judy Phillpotts|
|Stage Manager||Anne Richards|
|Costume, Makeup and Hair Design||Judy Phillpotts|
|Lighting Design||Mike Rippon|
|Sound Design||Phil Butterworth|
|Teleprompt Operator||Greg Phillpotts|
|Set Design||Geoff Dickson, Anne Richards, Mike Rippon|
|Set Construction Manager||Steve George|
|Set Construction and Decoration Team||Martin Horton, Judy Phillpotts, Greg Phillpotts, Anne Richards, Mike Rippon, Jolyon Oliver|
|Props Design||Anne Richards|
|Props Maker – harpsichord and stove||Philip Hamlin|
|Programme Design and Cover Photography||Mike Rippon|
|Poster Illustration||Anne Richards|
|Bar Manager||Damien Lovegrove|
|Front of House Team||Suzie Ladbrooke, Pam Holmes, Helen Richardson, Jo Lewis, Caroline Tollworthy|
|Video Cameraman||Bernard Coulter|
Review of A Doll’s House in the January Isle of Wedmore News
The play was presented with skill. Wedmore Theatre members, some of whom were actually in the cast, gave everyone a warm welcome on what was a bitterly cold night. The stage set illustrated a comfortable Oslo home during Christmas 1879. An early log burner radiating a warm orange glow across the room was particularly impressive, as were the oil lamps which provided illumination appropriate to each act. A Harpsicord which would have a role later completed the scene. The player’s costumes were totally realistic and applicable to the period.
The play begins with Nora Helmer (Carrie Large) bustling onto the stage to enjoy a few precious moments alone before the unwanted arrival of her domineering and overshadowing husband Torvald (Alan Philps), a man intoxicated by his own importance with a ready lexicon of endless condescending adjectives and phrases to hand; ‘my skylark,’ ‘my squirrel,’ even ‘my little spendthrift,’ with which to constantly and undeservingly belittle, demean and claim control and ownership of the long-suffering Nora, who’s only sin is a determination to provide a good Christmas for her family on the meagre budget begrudgingly furnished by Torvald.
Torvald is supported and counselled by a close family friend, Dr Rank (David Eccles), a man although knowing himself to be terminally ill, harbours a secret passion for Nora. Whilst Nora’s saviour is the homely Christine Linde (Andrea Brenner), a no-nonsense old friend recently widowed and seeking fresh adventures in the form of a new husband. However, it is the arrival of the towering and sinister Nils Krogstad (Will Evans) which introduces the prospect of fraud and scandal, which will ruin this respectable family and destroy their position in Oslo society.
The Helmer’s children Emmy (Ruby Evans) and Ivar (Oliver Large) play the innocent bystanders to the unfolding domestic calamity, whist the maid Helen (Venetia Hopkins) and nanny Anna (Jendy Weekes) shepherd and manage household affairs mostly from the wings, aware of the issues, but powerless to intervene. It should be noted that Venetia was also understudy for Nora.
By most standards this was a long play, 2 hours and 15 minutes with two 15-minute intervals. My first observation is that the entire cast were almost word perfect, a considerable achievement. Foremost in this was Nora, who apart from some 5 minutes at the start of Act 3, was on-stage and leading the dialogue with style and panache throughout, whilst suffering the continual put-downs from Torvald.
I would also state that this was a brave play to put on, with its core and highly topical theme of coercion and control of a woman, by a man. This Torvald did powerfully, totally unaware of the consequences of his behaviour, or indeed of his own wrongdoings, until it became too late.
Torvald’s quick ‘ad-libbing’ when he became entangled in Nora’s costume provided a useful moment of unscripted fun.
Personally, I have to say that as a man who has lived a full life and could not claim to be blameless throughout, I occasionally heard my own voice in some of Torvald’s words. I am sure several other men in the audience felt likewise, as I noticed at least three adjacent couples glance knowingly at each other, particularly when Tovrald berated Nora for what was in his unwavering opinion, unjustifiable spending. We all have much to learn from this.
Both Dr Rank and Christine gave fine support to the leading pair. Rank confident and authoritative despite his ailing health, whilst Christine deployed her charms to disarm Nils by rekindling their past romance, removing the threat from the Helmer family, but alas too late to save their marriage. The assurance, enthusiasm and ease with which both Emmy and Ivor delivered their lines was highly impressive; in fact before the first interval, I could have easily believed they were actually brother and sister. If they are the future of Wedmore Theatre, then it is more than assured.
As matters built to a dramatic conclusion, Nora rehearses the Italian folk dance Tarantella, which she would perform at a white tie event at their neighbour’s apartment that evening. The illusion that Nora, Tovrald and Dr Rank could all play the Harpsicord was well managed, the latter taking over at a key moment so that Tovrald could launch yet another series of disapproving tantrums at Nora, as she attempted to perfect her routine.
This was a splendid evenings entertainment and yes there was humour, even within such tense subject matter. At the end Nora leaves home for good late at night, off to ‘discover herself’ as at least Tovrald’s equal, if not more likely his intellectual superior, leaving him broken, alone and without a mother for his children. The fact that Ibsen’s 143 year old play is still as appropriate, relevant and topical today as it was then, is a sad reflection upon the progress of our society.
My congratulations to all the Players, Support Staff and the Director / Producers; Sue Rippon and Judy Phillpotts.
Thank you for inviting me to review the play and I am looking forward to the next production of Wedmore Theatre already.
Production Photo Gallery
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What relevance has Ibsen (1828-1906) to us today?
When choosing a play, a director has to consider the question “What play would the audience best relate to and enjoy?”
Ibsen is the most performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare, and in 2006 A Doll’s House was the world’s most performed play. This doesn’t automatically make it the perfect choice for a Christmas production, nor does it necessarily make it appropriate for a modern audience.
A Doll’s House opened in 1879 and caused an uproar with its scathing criticism of the marital roles accepted by men and women in Ibsen’s society, not just in Norway but throughout Europe and America. It dominated conversations at Oslo social gatherings and was thought to be an overly provocative feminist play. Ibsen claimed that he never intended to write a play about women’s rights, but rather a play about every human being’s need to find his or herself, and then the need to try to become that person. However, we continue to see A Doll’s House as a play about feminism; and despite Ibsen saying that the subject of the play could have been a man or woman, it is a woman he chose to write about, and a married woman at that.
One hostess of the time wrote on the invitation to her soirée: “You are politely requested not to mention Mr Ibsen’s new play”. Maybe it was their horror at Nora’s abandonment of her children that unsettled them, but how many of those professedly shocked married women didn’t secretly understand, if not applaud, Nora’s right to ‘find herself’?
Ibsen enjoyed upsetting the Establishment. His aim was to bring unpleasant issues into the limelight and get people talking about them. A Doll’s House was followed in 1881 by Ghosts, a full-on attack on middle-class Norwegian morality, in which a widow’s husband’s vices are passed on to their son in the form of syphilis. He had already raised this theme in A Doll’s House, but obliquely, as subtext in the implied cause of Dr Rank’s fatal inherited illness. He revelled in the shock his plays provoked and wrote: “Ghosts will probably cause alarm in some circles, but it can’t be helped. If it didn’t, there would have been no necessity for me to have written it.”
So, is Ibsen’s A Doll’s House the right choice for a 2022 audience? This is a play about the rights of the individual, gender equality and coercive control in a relationship. Do these themes only relate to the restrictions of Victorian society? When Germaine Greer published The Female Eunuch 52 years ago, were we right to assume that women’s rights were at last on the way to being achieved?
Let’s consider this quote from Women’s Aid “In England and Wales, between April 2020 and March 2021, there were just 1,403 defendants prosecuted for controlling or coercive behaviour. There were 33,954 offences of coercive control recorded.”
Ibsen was 140 years ahead of his time. A Doll’s House is as relevant today as it was then. We hope you enjoy it!