Theatre review: A Doll’s House, Royal Lyceum

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FIRST staged in 1879, Henrik Ibsen’s original play was heavy going. However, in this National Theatre of Scotland adaptation of A Doll’s House, Edinburgh-based playwright and director Zinnie Harris lifts the story by placing it in Edwardian London.

A Doll’s House

Royal Lyceum, Grindlay Street

* * * * *

Although she gives it a light touch, it is no less dramatic and moving for that.

Whereas the original tale of deception and betrayal was set in the world of law and finance, in this production the background is one of politics. The introduction of potential media involvement gives it an astonishingly contemporary feel.

The ideal wife, Nora Vaughan, wonderfully portrayed by Amy Manson, places herself in debt and commits fraud in an attempt to protect her husband and safeguard his career.

However, her actions dictate that her cosy family world will unravel.

Hywel Simons as Thomas, the self-regarding MP recently promoted to a cabinet position, is overpowering without being overbearing.

Meanwhile, Manson’s Nora cuts a handsome and commanding figure. At times intense and feisty, at others playful, she generates a sympathy that makes it easy to fully identify with the character. Hence, when she descends into a world of distress and frantic agitation, she takes the audience with her.

There is real shock when her demonstration of a dance turns into delirium.

Brian McCardie as Kelman portrays a gruff, shamed politician who induces loathing and then sympathy in equal measure. As with every other member of the cast, his acting skills are beyond question – absolutely magnificent. You cannot help but be caught up in the story and the emotions.

This all makes for a powerful, sometimes humorous production that at points is also positively disturbing.

The plot and the actors transport the audience to a world of intrigue, and once they have them there, keep them entranced through to the closing moments of the piece.

Even the incidental music, a moody sound-scape of muted and sustained chords, manages a perfect balance which adds to the production without ever intruding.

A truly outstanding work. Don’t miss it.

• Run ends May 4