A Doll's House

  • Sport and fitness
Critics' choice
© Johan Persson
Hattie Morahan (Nora Helmer) and Susannah Wise (Kristine Linde)

'Her performance was a little natural for my tastes,' comments Dominic Rowan's creepy, David Cameron-like Torvald of his wife Nora (Hattie Morahan) in Simon Stephens's new adaptation of Ibsen's 1879 masterpiece.

I dread to think what he'd consider unnatural: Nora is one the great female roles in the Western canon and Morahan throws everything she has into a performance that's frequently electrifying, but about as natural as a spork.

Twitching nervously, giggling coquettishly, whispering conspiratorially, rolling her eyes, staring anxiously into the middle distance, shooting between emotional extremes and speaking in an odd, Thatcher-esque drawl, she seems deep in the throes of a nervous breakdown from the off.

It is a singular turn of remarkable intensity, but difficult to get on board with: because she starts the play at full tilt, Morahan has nowhere else to take Nora emotionally or tonally. It's also easier to sympathise than to empathise. Nora has sacrificed her mental wellbeing for the sake of the narcisstic Torvald, buckling under the pressure of the 'scandalous' clandestine loan she took out to pay for his recuperation after his own breakdown. But it's often hard to see the humanity under it all.

This isn't such a problem in the first half, in which Nora bounces and buzzes off the walls of her neat, constrictive family home for two nerve-jangling hours. But a climactic showdown with Torvald requires her, awkwardly, to jettison most of the strangeness in order to deliver a final, vindictive speech.

Still, if Carrie Cracknell's production didn't quite work for me, it's far from unimpressive. And Ian MacNeil turns in a typically superb Young Vic set: a tidy, picture-perfect Nordic apartment surrounded by inky darkness, which revolves between scenes to dazzlingly cinematic effect.

Nick Fletcher's sheer ordinariness as Torvald's blackmailing ex-employee Krogstad is disarmingly sinister. And Dominic Rowan is superb as Torvald: his stilted attempts at empathy mark the only performance to truly mesh with Morahan's powerhouse otherness.

Event phone: 020 7922 2922
Event website: http://www.youngvic.org

Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:4
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:2
LiveReviews|10
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Ania

I saw the play last week, and left feeling rather disappointed. Maybe it was partly the story itself that I didn't warm to, but mostly it was Hattie Morahan's acting that I didn't enjoy. I thought she had gone completely over the top and just over-acted; too many weird faces, heavy breathing and mumbling. Not impressed.

FSampedro

Cracknell and Ian MacNeil have done a revealing work. They really produce the effect of a doll's house with the moving set. You get the sensation that you can see all rooms at the same time, like in an old doll's house in a shop window. And technically that is what Ibsen’s play is about: simultaneous actions happening in different rooms: the audience can only witness one, but is aware of all of them (and of their importance) at all times. This fascinating conception deserves five stars. But “A Doll’s House” is about Nora and Hattie Morahan is a weak Nora. She is so childish in all aspects that you are tempted to think that Torvald is right in patronizing her. And that is exactly what you should never think. Nora may be childish but she also has strength, intelligence and determination. Without these qualities her final outburst to start off a new life as a person might be seen as the latest whim of a spoilt child. And that is exactly what you should never see in Nora’s spellbinding outbreak.

Coffi Kup

Your review is too short, badly-written and ill-informed. Thatcher-esque is a lazy word in this context and the sentiment it evokes wholly irrelevant to this play and this production. This review does not do justice to the production or to Time Out.

Otto Figg

I think Andrzej has hit the nail on the head. I found Miss Morahan's portrayal thoroughly exhausting. At times I felt she'd be better suited to an all female production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. There was no light and shade. Just lots of 'Acting.' A performance in F5 lacking any sexual chemistry with anything on stage except perhaps the Christmas Tree. I don't think Ms Morahan can be entirely held to account for the bland, posterior-numbing, snooze-fest of a production. All of the characters barring Mr Fletcher's and Ms Wise's were just as two dimensional. Poor Dr Rank was so wooden he looked like he was competing with the dining room furniture. Mr Stephen's script is good and Mr MacNeil's set is impressive but dangerously hypnotic after its umpteenth spin. Come on, Young Vic, you are better than this...

soose

People are entitled to their own opinions! This production was good, but not great. I personally thought Hattie was good (apart from her last scene, which I didn't quite buy). I was less impressed with the rest of the cast. Stakes were missing and the casting of a physically strong Dr Rank was odd!

Cazza3110

Oh Alice, how dangerous people like you are as some people will look at your review and be put off going to the play. the acting, staging and direction were superb. It had a standing ovation when I went, which it well deserved. Hattie M deserves not only to be nominated as best actress, but also to win it. Highly recommended

George

Not sure what Alice went to see - maybe she posted on the wrong board! A most enjoyable production with an excellent cast. Highly recommended.

Claire

Really enjoyed the performance on Saturday night! The cast were excellent. Thoroughly recommend.

Ben

Couldn't agree less with Alice's review. Really enjoyed last nights performance and thought the casting was excellent. I heard no complaints in the interval or post-performance and would recommend it to others.

Alice

I saw this last night. It was one of the worst performances Ive ever witnessed. The audience were fuming at the interval. I genuinely dont like ranting online but for such a good team they made a total b*lls up of this. It is so misjudged in casting, screenplay, mis-en-scene. Im actually shocked that the Young Vic would allow this to continue. I’m still bewildered how they got this so wrong on so many levels.