Reviewed by Tony Peters
The reputation of this Young Vic production precedes it thanks to a critically acclaimed sell-out run last summer that garnered Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle awards for Hattie Morahan’s performance as Nora.
After a break of a few months, it is now at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a deserved West End transfer.
Revisiting such a highly revered work could easily put pressure on the actors (they are the same here as in the Young Vic production), with the break upsetting the impetus obtained from continuous performance and leave them having to find their feet again. But the hugely accomplished cast in Carrie Cracknell’s working of Ibsen’s most famous play have hit the ground running and one would think they had been performing these roles unbroken for months, so well do they fit.
From the superbly choreographed opening scene that makes full use if the revolve and Ian MacNeil’s cleverly designed composite set, you can’t help but be captivated and drawn into the lives of these people.
Hattie Morahan is quite brilliant as Nora, who starts the play as a woman who has everything: a nice home, three beautiful children and a reasonably comfortable life, thanks to her upwardly mobile banker husband Torvard (Dominic Rowan). She is happy and displays a child-like innocence, reveling in her husband’s teasing.
But her naivety leads her into a foolish act of borrowing money without her husband’s consent and puts her at the mercy of one of his employees, Krugstad — a nicely pitched performance from Nick Fletcher that is somewhere between menace and desperation.
If this situation wasn’t enough, Nora also has to contend with the romantic attentions of family friend Dr Jens Rank (Steve Toussaint).
As a result we see Nora change before our eyes from a woman content to exist in a world dominated by men to one who, by the end, is driven to the most extreme action to establish her own identity.
The greatest writing never really dates and despite its age and in the hands of this superb cast, Ibsen’s very modern themes maintain a resonance over 130 years on.
Written by Henrik Ibsen
Directed by Carrie Cracknell
Nora Helmer: Hattie Morahan
Torvald Helmer: Dominic Rowan
Nils Krugstad: Nick Fletcher
Dr Jens Rank: Steve Toussaint
Kristine Lind: Caroline Martin
Elise: Mary Drake
Anna: Leda Hodgson
Helene: Yolanda Kettle