Following Nora out the door
At the end of A Doll’s House, Nora walks out on her husband and children and slams the door behind her. But what happened next? Belvoir’s latest production picks up where Ibsen left off, writes Garrett Bithell
At the end of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, the now-iconic character of Nora Helmer walks out the front door of the house she lives in with her husband and children, slams it behind her and leaves. In 1879, this was an unthinkable act – but exactly how different is Nora’s dilemma through the lens of the present day?
Belvoir’s latest upstairs production sets Nora’s story in the here and now, beginning with Ibsen’s tale and then following Nora out the door and into the new life we all suppose is possible for a tough-minded young woman in our equitable modern times.
“I wanted to find out how A Doll's House still speaks to us in Sydney in 2014,” writer and director Anne-Louise Sarks tells SX. “And I wanted to get inside the experience of the character of Nora, even more than Ibsen did. Ibsen’s door-slam at the end of the play is so famous in theatre history. I wanted to know what happened after that slam. How did Nora feel? What did she do? Where did she go next? So I decided our play should stay with Nora, to share in the moments following that bold transgressive act.
I also love a strong complex woman. I wanted to make a show that placed a character like that at the centre.”
According to Sarks, Nora’s dilemma remains the same in 2014: how much will a woman put up with and why? And what is the alternative?
“The things that hold Nora back in 2014 aren't as obvious but they are just as insidious,” she says. “I wanted to shine a light on the personal inside the political, on the myriad of ways we hold women (and our society as a whole) back on a daily basis by clinging to our traditional gender roles. By failing to question our world. By not allowing difference to be celebrated. This play asks us who we are and who we want to be. And it demands we ask that of our most personal selves too.”
Sarks, who is now Resident Director at Belvoir, has cast Blazey Best in the title role. The two worked together in 2012 on a stunning reimagining of Medea in the downstairs theatre. “She's an extraordinary actor,” she raves. “She understands theatre, innately, and gives her whole self to every role she takes on. I knew I needed her truth, her depth, her passion and her fight for our contemporary Nora. And we found such a connection when we worked on Medea together. I wanted to explore that again as soon as possible.”
[Image] Blazey Best plays the title role in Belvoir’s upcoming Nora
Upstairs Belvoir, August 6 – September 14. Bookings: www.belvoir.com.au