"Tiny space holds skylark prisoner"
by Peter Carrington for remotegoat on 22/01/14

The tiny space of the London theatre holds the living room of the Helmers and is the cell for the central character of Nora; wife to Torvald, mother or two and frantic in everything she does. A tangled web of deceit, guilt and love envelops her and desperately she struggles; a torment which so many women must have felt when Ibsen originally penned the script and still feel today. This production has energy, truth and emotion.

Laura Kenward is the standout performance of this production portraying Nora with such verisimilitude that the audience shakes as she wracks her conscience. Her sincerity as Nora carries the entire play. Opposite her, Howie Ripley plays Nora’s husband Torvald; a bank manager and product of his time. He calls Nora his ‘lark’ and kindly patronises her so she feels all she can do is dance and play for him. Ripley’s performance is subdued where Kenward’s is vivacious, a stark contrast to the state of their character’s marriage. Their chemistry together sparks and makes the final confrontation all the more powerful, having seen them seemingly so blissfully happy in Act One.

The supporting cast are good; Tom Collins as Dr Rank gets to deliver some of the plays most poignant lines, which he does with a sweet frailty. Hilary Cordery as the nanny is given brief melancholic characterisation. Maleesha Adjaye-Tabansi as Kristine and David Scott-Lucas as Krogstad add to the tension as friend and foe to the Helmers.

Pauline Armour’s direction turns what could be a very static play in a small space and makes it dynamic, rarely are any characters sat in one place for long and when combined with the snappy dialogue keeps the audience’s attention. The design of the play from the set to the sound and light is stylised to give the feel of the period without overshadowing the characters.

This is a production that is not afraid to tackle the many issues raised by the play head on, from law versus morality, to gender politics, to personal identity and freedom. It does so with energy, truth and emotion.

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