Posts Tagged ‘henrik ibsen

12
Sep
14

A Doll’s House

 

brisbanefestival2014

 

adollshouse

 

A Doll’s House

La Boite & Brisbane Festival

The Roundhouse

September 10 – 27 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Concision in style, precision in thought, decision in life.

Victor Hugo

 

Writer, Lally Katz, and Director, Steven Mitchell Wright, have recreated A Doll’s House for a new generation.

 

I’m not sure exactly what the new generation will get from it though because I feel the conclusion is slightly skewed. Is it just me? I always wonder what other people will take away from a show. I think the opening night crowd loved it! But the ending? Not so much.

 

Tara-Moss

The feminist message is so overstated by the conclusion of this production that I feel sure I would have been happier to miss the final gear change and escape before the end, still anticipating, as Lally’s mum’s English teacher put it, “the door slam that was heard all over the world.”

 

 

The end of the three acts is an anomaly, completely at odds with the style and sophistication of the rest of the piece. The poorly matched bag and shoe colour-blocking fashion statement takes us defiantly back to the eighties, the music brings us well and truly into the nineties, and its strangely staunch feminist diatribe, after the fluid, modern, poetic language of the play, transports us stubbornly back to the seventies, when women’s lib was a thing. Okay, so it’s still a thing (it’s always been a thing), but in a very different way. In this country at least, we’ve been talking intelligently for a while now about equal rights, without having to burn our Honey Birdette bras and shout about it from the rooftops. In fact, I listened last weekend to Tara Moss talk very intelligently about it. (She’s actually my new favourite public person, right up there with our Cate).

 

At the risk of repeating myself, allow me to explain. I don’t want you to avoid seeing A Doll’s House because the ending is wrong for our time and place.

 

Like all good drama, the play speaks for itself. We don’t need the contemporary voice here to sum it all up in case we missed the point, in case we’re stupid. It just doesn’t ring true. Until this point Lally’s version is exceptionally clear – there’s no missing the message in this fresh and insightful adaptation – and when the essence of Ibsen’s original play (illuminated more brightly than ever through the beautiful, subtle changes in text and Mitchell Wright’s unnerving, alienating staging), is lost in the explanation, it’s like listening to the host of the party trying to break down a joke when someone doesn’t laugh at the punchline. Look, seriously, sorry, but the thing is this: if you’re having to explain a joke at your own event you need a) a new guest list and/or b) new material.

 

Admittedly, I was feeling slightly wary of Steven Mitchell Wright’s treatment of Lally’s updated text. (Wary is my defense mechanism. I don’t like to be disappointed). By this I mean, after recently experiencing The Danger Ensemble’s very challenging Caligula, I went into A Doll’s House not knowing what to expect! (N.B. This is a good thing in theatre). This neat team comprises Lally Katz and Steven Mitchell Wright, and Designer, Dan Potra, Lighting Designer, Ben Hughes, and Composer & Sound Designer, Dane Alexander. Hughes’ lighting states and Alexander’s soundscape whisper discreetly together, with NCIS ad break clunks to punctuate plot points and the innermost thoughts and feelings of the characters, until the ambience morphs into some sort of subterranean club scene. I’m already freezing and by the time I begin to visibly shiver I have to get out. I’ve never been so cold in The Roundhouse. The temperature and the volume are moving in opposite directions, forcing me outside into the marginally more comfortable night air of the Theatre Republic. It’s so discomforting it’s brilliant. Talk about experiencing the theatre! When I go back in, the space is still too loud and too cold and too small. It’s claustrophobic and if it were hot it’d be cloying. Because I’m still freezing I’m tapping my foot in spite of myself. It’s so not tapping-your-foot-to-the-music music. It’s music to go mad to. (And the bass clearly takes others to the point of madness about three quarters of the way through the final act, persisting underneath something classical, but I don’t mind it. I’ve slid down venue doors and heard that beat for hours longer. It’s sort of vaguely comforting, and it makes me think, responsibly, “THE BATON PASSES ON!”)

 

The company has achieved something extraordinary with this play (because let’s just forget that dreadful ending ever happened), which is to create an entirely new experience of one of our greatest feminist (or rather, free choice) plays. I always loathed it until I read it so many times I loved it. Nora annoyed me, and yet I chose A Doll’s House for an extended study unit in Senior Theatre (back when we called it just Drama). I designed costumes and a shoebox set, complete with actual doll’s house furniture. I didn’t consider this to be cheating; I thought it demonstrated my initiative, and an uncanny ability to source precisely whatever it was the production needed. It’s taken years for my skills to be truly appreciated in an actual theatre. Anyway.

 

desperatehousewives

Potra’s creepy Grimm Brothers’ fairytale hair cum forest trees and tendrils (Wisteria Lane, anyone?) literally trap the inhabitants of Torvald’s house – a sort of a Sleeping Rapunzel Beauty effect – and the first few times our actors break into song, I expect to hear the princes’ refrain from Sondheim’s Into the Woods. (When they don’t sing it, I hear it inside my head anyway!). It’s a device that allows the opportunity for melodrama and many mini comedic moments. Each song also offers a glimpse at the complex machinations of the characters. But what I suspect is that it may simply be a bemused statement on musical theatre. I could be wrong…

 


 

I love the clever, slightly untidy action leading into the final moments of the play, when the actors connect additional power sources to light up the pallet parquetry floor from beneath, only to reveal its cracks. The cracks in the floor (in the faces, in the hearts and minds and souls of so many men and women), were always there, but until they’re illuminated it’s possible to stubbornly/naively/foolishly/destructively ignore them.

 

It’s brave, of course it is, to stage something so known so drastically differently, to trust your actors so completely to bring new aspects to each character, giving us new insight into an age-old story. If you’ve never seen A Doll’s House, originally staged in 1879, a month after Ibsen penned it, this one is a fascinating production, well worth making the effort to get to. And interestingly, when much younger members of the audience laugh (well, let’s say they are not that much younger), I feel a rush of sadness for Nora and still, despite our “progress”, a tenderness for women everywhere. I overhear an older couple discussing whether or not the young people are “getting it” and I can only conclude they are “getting” something completely different from the show. Or maybe not so different at all. It’s in that (and in my own response to the work), that we see the real magic of this version of the play.

 

I didn’t think I could ever sit through another production of A Doll’s House. We just don’t accept anymore that a woman relinquishes the right to answer back to her husband, or to manage her own affairs, but in this entertaining and moving production, it’s entirely believable. Of course this is largely due too, to the superb cast, comprising Helen Christinson (Nora “Hummingbird” Helmer – a delicate and precise little kewpie doll creature, like our Wife in Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, whose silent scream is loud and clear and whose Tarantella is, for one moment in time, just as wild and desperate as it should be. It’s at this point that a new production might find its finish. Christinson makes me ache for her…and wonder what it is the redheads in Brisbane theatre circles have been taking. I want some is all.), Hugh Parker (Torvald Puppet Master Helmer), Chris Beckey (Krogstad), Damien Cassidy (Dr Rank) and Cienda McNamara (Kristine).

 

If you have yet to be called an incorrigable, defiant woman,
don’t worry, there is still time.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 

We continue to see Steven Mitchell Wright create the most incredible original work, and with the support of La Boite Theatre Company and Brisbane Festival, this time he’s turned straw into gold, pulled Granny from the belly of a wolf and planted a magic bean at the end of the rainbow. I’d say this production marks Steven Mitchell Wright as being well on the way to joining our country’s directing giants.

 

04
Sep
14

La Boite Theatre Company’s A Doll’s House for Brisbane Festival 2014 – a chat with Director, Steven Mitchell Wright

 

brisbanefestival2014

 

We asked Director of La Boite & Brisbane Festival’s A Doll’s House, Steven Mitchell Wright, to drop everything and tell us about the show and his process and he did! Hooray! You HAVE booked now, haven’t you?

 

Steven, why do we need to keep revisiting A Doll’s House?

We don’t need to but the work is rich.  It’s deeply relevant still.  The work has undeniable feminist readings. I believe (despite recent social media phenomena) that we are in a world that still requires an argument for feminism and equality. Nora’s position within this work is not just about an individual but also an entire culture.

 

For me, it’s also a story about individual happiness, and about the sacrifices we make for other peoples happiness and the cost of our own.  Particularly in Love and the ways that in relationships we can love someone so much that we lose ourselves or when we spend so much energy on making sure our Love is ok that we forget to make sure our lover is. I’m not sure that will ever fall out of a place of relevance.

 

What’s different about this production?

Well, Lally made it a bit of a musical. Well, not a musical, a show with songs.  For me, the inclusion of songs shifts the form in a really challenging way.  I abhor domesticity in theatre and I don’t really believe in realism so that makes this production different to the way it is often perceived and presented in the majority of the works theatrical history.  That said, Mabou Mines and Pan Pan have both presented very experimental versions of A Doll’s House in Brisbane in the last decade or so and our version is in no way that irreverent… but it is also not a domestic sitting room drama, we are playing with time and space in a different way.

 

What was your first experience with the play?

I believe I read it when I was at university but I have little to no recollection of having any feelings about it. I saw Mabou Mines production at Brisbane Festival many years ago but really my first deep engagement with it was reading it last year when we were in early discussions about programming the work for La Boite.

 

Can you relate to any of the characters?

I relate to all of them, I think that’s one of the greatest things about the work and one of the reasons the work has endured time.

 

What do you think made Lally Katz the ideal writer for this gig?

Well, I don’t think there is such a thing as an ideal artist, the creatives on the work make them what they are.  Had it been a different writer it would have been a different show entirely.  What I think is great about Lally though is her rhythms, her sense of poetry and the idiosyncrasies she writes with, it marries with my philosophies.  I don’t like watching theatre that asks us to forget that the actors are acting.  I like theatre that is undeniably theatrical and Lally’s writing is great at keeping the theatrical bouyant and the poetic in her work is unexpected.  I’ve been an admirer of her work for a long time so it’s an honour to be working with her.
What do you think would happen in the sequel? What does Nora do next?

I think the power in A Doll’s House comes from the potential and possibility at the end, I would never speculate as to what becomes of Nora, I think that could kill and crush A Doll’s House.

 

Which directors do you admire and why?
I feel like I’ve answered this question for XS Entertainment before, and I’m scared that my answers haven’t changed. Jan Fabre, Robert Wilson, Simon McBurney, Robert Lepage, Tadashi Suzuki, Barry Kosky, Anne Bogart, Tim Etchells – I admire them all for different reason – largely they give me something to aspire to.

 

Locally, Daniel Evans‘ work constantly inspires and challenges me.  I’m really interested in the work of The Rabble and The Hayloft Project but I haven’t seen enough of their work.

 

What made you start directing and keep directing?

I think I started creating first, I wanted to be a maker largely because I wasn’t seeing much work that excited me and I wanted to perform in work that excited me and audiences.  So I started making work and directing them so I could perform in them.  As my work matured and I was able begin to articulate my process more, I found performing and directing became too complicated and was doing a disservice to the work and the other actors.    I’m not sure why I kept directing, it’s in my blood I think. I don’t have much of a choice about it.

 

Describe your creative process and the rehearsal process for a production such as this.

I don’t know that I’m the best person to describe this – my process on this show was an evolution of some ideas I’ve been playing with in different processes over the last few years. This process has been very different for me as it’s the first time in years that I’ve been on the floor with a completed script at the beginning of rehearsals so I’ve had to reassess and relearn some processes.

 

I asked the actors to give me a line each to answer this question.

 

Hugh Parker said, “an intense physical work out that forced me to examine where I was skipping in my own process”.

 

Helen Christinson said, “an incredibly free process that was supported by foundations that encouraged creativity, specificity and nuance.”

 

Chris Beckey said, “it was a process that afforded me the opportunity to explore the minutiae of the text and it’s physicality, a luxury that few processes afford an actor”

 

Cienda McNamara said, “working for specificity and when you think you are being specific, you need to go specifikerer”.

 

Damien Cassidy said, “a rigorous commitment to placing the mundane and the default and the familiar with a precise yet fractured quiet virtuosity”.

 

What’s the significance for you of the inclusion of A Doll’s House in the Brisbane Festival program?

It’s lovely to be programmed as a part of the festival. To be programmed along works of national and international significance.  It gives local artists the opportunity to be involved in the international conversation, to contribute to our greater ecology.

 

stevenmitchellwright

Steven Mitchell Wright

What’s next for you?  

I am directing a work as a part of Awkward Conversation curated and artistic directed by Daniel Evans at Metro Arts. The piece I’m directing is currently embargoed so I can’t spill that but it’ll be announced shortly and I’m really excited and terrified by it. After that it’s basically next year and The Danger Ensemble (the independent company I Artistic Direct) are going into development for a large new work for 2016 and you may see some of our existing works getting a redevelopment and another presentation.

 

I’m also looking to get back on stage next year as a performer and some conversations around that have also begun.

 

 

 

 

04
Sep
14

La Boite Theatre Company’s A Doll’s House for Brisbane Festival 2014 – a chat with Writer, Lally Katz

 

brisbanefestival2014

 

 

Lally Katz has written a new version of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House for La Boite and Brisbane Festival. Of course you knew that. But have you booked yet?

 

Lally, why do we need to keep revisiting A Doll’s House?

I guess as a culture we’re still fascinated by a woman who leaves behind all the things that women are taught to value and base their identity on. Plus the characters and story are great.

 

What’s different about this adaptation?

There are songs in it. And time is used differently. But it also keeps very closely to the original structure.

 

What was your first experience with the play?

My mother told me about it. She said her high school English teacher used to say, ‘It was the door slam that was heard all over the world.’ That always resonated with me.

 

How do you relate to Nora?

I am very different to Nora in lots of ways. But I have hidden longings and dreams too, like Nora, like most people.   I have an almost opposite life to Nora, unlike her, I don’t have a husband and family. I have a career I’m obsessed with and I travel a lot. I don’t have to answer to anyone within my household, except my cleaner, who I really don’t want to lose. She comes once a week, and whatever she says, goes. I relate to Nora in that I wonder how can you have a family and keep yourself. I know lots of women must do it, but I have never worked out how to do it.. Sometimes I try to be like Nora in the beginning of the play. Sort of like a very happy housewife- because I think that will make me acceptable. But it never works. Often I find this heartbreaking, but relieving. I think there’s something women are still taught about how to see themselves. And we can go against that, but there is always a price. Also, like Nora, people sometimes treat me like a child. I can act like a child sometimes. I feel comfortable there. But I’m trying to change that. I’m currently learning to drive so I can leave that persona behind.

 

 

What do you think makes Steven Mitchell Wright the ideal director for this gig?

Steven has a brilliant theatrical imagination. He sees and hears theatre in a very unique way. I’m really excited to see the world that he creates. Steven and I talked a lot in the lead up to my writing this adaptation and he gave me these songs to listen to, that really brought me into the world and the heart of Nora and of the play. So I think we came to this together on the same wavelength. Steven makes arresting theatre, watching him in early rehearsals I was fascinated by the textures that he was building into the characters and the world. He has a very special and arresting way of seeing things. I think this will be fantastic for A Doll’s House.

 

Do you feel the need to write a sequel? What Nora Did Next?

No, not really. I like imagining lots of different stuff for Nora.

 

Which writers do you admire in the literary and theatrical worlds?

In Australia there are so many playwrights I love and admire. And they’re all so different from each other. Andrew Bovell, Joanna Murray Smith, Hannie Rayson, David Williamson, Wesley Enoch, Brendan Cowell, Andrew Upton, Jenny Kemp, Hilary Bell, Patricia Cornelius, Nicola Gunn, Tommy Murphy, Tom Holloway, Simon Stone, Anne Louise Sarks, Kit Brookman, Nikki Bloom, Tom Wright, Angela Betzien, Rita Kalnejais, Melissa Reeves, All the people who’s work I’ve watched and learned from and my peers. I’m forgetting LOTS of people. But I love the work of the writers in the Australian theatre industry. Outside of Australia there’s lots I love too- I love Caryl Churchill, Thorton Wilder, Tennesse Williams, Flannery O’Connor and Sarah Cane. But so many others. I am also reading a Stephen King book at the moment. I love his writing, But actually I can’t read it because it’s too scary. And I love lots of new plays and playwrights, but I can’t think of all of them now.

 

What made you start writing and keep writing?

I always wrote. I have always had a passion, a hunger and a drive to tell stories. I live for it. And I still do it because I’m still obsessed with it and I still live for it. Even though I am always behind on all my work. So really I live to procrastinate….

 

If you could write a letter to anybody and be sure they’d respond, who would it be?

Leonard Cohen. I just love him so much. And I wish I knew him and that we talked all the time. And I think I would really get a lot out of reading his letters. He’d be a great letter writer.

 

Describe your creative process/writing routine.

It is very chaotic. I spend a lot of time getting inspired and getting experiences and living everything enough to be able to write it, then I procrastinate for months and/or weeks. And then I sit down in a panic and write the first draft very quickly.

 

How much time do you spend “in the room” with the actors and director?

It depends on the production. Less as I get older to be honest. When I was younger I thought they needed me all the time. But now I find that it’s okay if I’m not there. The show doesn’t fall apart- sometimes it’s better because if I’m there then I can keep re writing too much and it doesn’t let everyone settle into and commit to the script. But that being said, there are definitely productions that are better if I am there a lot. Especially if the script isn’t quite done, or there’s still a lot of mysteries people need insights to inside the world and the characters.

 

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What are you looking forward to seeing in this production?

I’m really looking forward to seeing the set and the costumes! And the actors in them of course!

 

What’s the significance for you of the inclusion of A Doll’s House in the Brisbane Festival program?

It’s really exciting for me. I love Brisbane and it’s the first time I’ve ever had a work in the festival. It’s thrilling.

 

What do you want to see/keep seeing in Australian theatre?

 

I want people to their rich imaginations. Australian writers have great texture and life in their work. But I think we can keep challenging ourselves more in structure and story.

 

 

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Lally Katz

 

What’s next for you?

I am going to be acting in an adaptation of my stage show STORIES I WANT TO TELL YOU IN PERSON for ABC Arts.