Writer: Belinda McKeon in collaboration with Annie Ryan
Director: Eoghan Carrick
Reviewer: Ciara L. Murphy
Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 classic, A Doll’s House, gets a contemporary shake-up in this new production by The Corn Exchange. Nora, played by Annie Ryan, lives in an underground mansion with her husband Turlough (Declan Conlon) and her daughter Emmy (Venetia Bowe). The reason that it is now ‘safer’ to live underground remains unknown.
The set, designed by Paul O’Mahony, exudes contemporary minimalist glamour. The audience, seated in the round, frame the stage on three sides, deepening the sense that we are underground. The sound (Philip Stewart) and lighting (Sarah Jane Shiels) also blend to accentuate this idea.
Nora has a distinct dystopian edge, think Margaret Atwood meets Henrik Ibsen. McKeon digs deep into the essence of this seminal character, and breathes a new life into her with clever insight and beautiful prose. There have been many attempts to reimagine Ibsen’s most critically analysed play, but Nora is much more than a re-imagination of a classic text, it is a cleverly constructed commentary on the world as it is, and as it could be.
The real triumph of this piece is the writing. McKeon’s script and Carrick’s direction provide the audience with moments of intense discomfort that are eminently satisfying. There is a constant tension to this piece, ensuring that these gut-wrenching moments can be felt like a frisson across the audience.
Ryan’s Nora awakens new possibilities and agency here, and Conlon plays the self-satisfied Turlough to perfection. Issues of class, gender, sexuality, and politics all get an airing here, and although this production covers a lot of ground, it never feels too much. Indeed, one of the most striking aspects of this piece is the sense that the consequences have greater implications in a world that we, the audience, do not understand.
Nora should be on everyone’s festival list this season. A vital, important, and ultimately entertaining piece of theatre.
Runs until 8 October 2017 | Image: Contributed