Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

New telling of old classic

A doll's house cast

A Doll’s House

Sutton Arts Theatre


THIS production is the latest example of the bold programming by Sutton Arts Theatre. Straight plays always have to work harder to win an audience than other theatrical genres, and period writing has to work harder still.

Yet A Doll’s House is one of the most performed plays of all time, and Ibsen competes with Shakespeare as the most performed playwright. Written 135 years ago, its examination of women, marriage, and the human condition endures.

Central to any successful performance of this play is the part of Nora. One of the best parts ever written for a wdolls house childrenoman, she is on stage throughout, has numerous monologues, and has to carry, and lead the emotion, of the drama.

Michelle Dawes as Nora does just that. Beautiful, fretful, wilful, and doubtful, her stunning luscious costumes provide a visual focus to a compelling performance which oozes paranoia and panic before resolution. She is the star of the show.

Opposite her Stuart Goodwin as her husband Torvald is wide-eyed and soppy, oblivious to his wife’s financial problems and emotional needs. It’s a difficult task, playing the part of a devoted husband to an emotionally estranged wife, but Goodwin pulls it off. His final bewilderment at his abandonment was particularly poignant.

Dan Payne is as dour as a debt collector should be, and Bhupinder Dhamu, friend and finally reconciled wife does well to tackle a range of responses in quite a short amount of dialogue. Allan Lane (Dr Jens Rank) Nora’s doomed admirer is dapper, and reserved, barely able to contain his desire for Nora, not least when she teases him with the stockings she intends to wear for the party.

Libby Allport is bright and breezy as the housekeeper and sometime playmate of energetic children, enthusiastically played by Luke Flaherty and Leo Butts.

John Islip and his team have produced a bright dolls house effect single set with pink walls and Scandinavian pine complete with hand- made fireplace and HMV style record player. Director Ian Appleby sets the action in period by costume but there are no cod Norwegian accents to distract although the icy bite to the wind as I walked to the theatre added an extra Nordic air of authenticity to proceedings.

The pace is brisk, the focus on character incessant, although in modern 21st century Western society it is impossible to recreate the shock that a woman walking out on her husband, children and social position would have created then, the themes of marriage, money and secrets are timeless.

Nora’s attitude to money would find favour with any contemporary Greek finance minister, Torvald’s handling of his trophy wife, strong on small talk, weak on substance, is painfully well portrayed by husband and wife. The discordant jazz piano motif which drifts in and out of the production is haunting, and a fitting aural backdrop.

A strong, powerful production of a very good play. To 14-02-15

Gary Longden


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