‘I didn’t nod off once!’ This was my partner’s reaction to the play. Which I have to say is praise indeed. He does have a tendency to fall asleep in most unusual places, but enough of him.
We go to the Donmar thanks to my London friend. We favour the Scandinavian and Russian 19th century playwrights: Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov. The male members of our little theatre going group groan when we announce the latest line-up.
‘Couldn’t we go and see something where people are happy and not committing suicide for a change?’
We tried, a few seasons ago we even saw some Shakespeare (not that Othello’s particularly cheerful), but like the Donmar, we do enjoy a good tragedy with lashings of hand-wringing misery.
As the men sat down to watch Doll’s House last night they made themselves comfortable on the wide seats, expecting to be napping in a few moments. I ignore this crime against the performing arts because I love theatre so much. Even a bad production is a joy. It’s a live performance. Much effort has gone into it. The acting, staging, direction, lighting, all has to come together in order to suspend the viewer’s disbelief.
The cast and production team of Doll’s House had us all at the edge of our seats. Gillian Anderson as Nora was sensual, determined, strong and vulnerable at the same time. Even the single wrongly delivered line added to her charm on stage. Toby Stephens was frighteningly convincing as an Edwardian patriarch: self-righteous and aggressive. These actors’ joint performance left the audience breathless. Even though I’d seen the play in its various incarnations several times and knew the ending, I was still left guessing what the characters would do next. The final scene was as dramatic as if it was my first viewing.
The rest of the cast was equally outstanding. Christopher Eccleston delivered his lines with accustomed passion, although to me he seemed slightly out of sync with the time and place of the play. As if he was a character from 1960’s dropped into an Edwardian era. (Once a time traveler…)
This adaptation was particularly poignant to the current political scandal. I doubt whether it was intended as the rehearsals must have begun well before the revelations of MP’s financial wrongdoings. Still, it’s the genius of a writer such as Zinnie Harris to transform an Edwardian play to so accurately reflect the 21st century. Not that a financial political scandal in any country in any century is an unexpected event.
When we made our way to Corrigans through the crowded Soho Streets, I felt almost drugged by the artistic excellence I’d just experienced. Too punch-drunk to notice how intoxicated the other late night revellers were, as they spilled out of bars and filled the pavements. Too happy to care that the traffic was ridiculously busy for the time of night. For once a play had been enjoyed by all of us. Whats more, no-one had slept, nor died during it.