From Dublin: Review of NORA

by Lynn on October 11, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Project Arts Theatre, Dublin, Ireland

Written by Belinda McKeon
In Collaboration with Annie Ryan
After A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
Directed by Eoghan Carrick
Set by Paul O’Mahony
Lighting by Sarah Jane Shiels
Sound by Philip Stewart
Costumes by Katie Crowley
Cast: Venetia Bowe
Declan Conlon
Peter Gaynor
Chris McHallem
Clare Perkins
Annie Ryan

People are certainly intrigued by A Doll’s House, Ibsen’s masterpiece that he wrote in 1879. An examination of what happens to Nora 15 years after she slammed the door and left her husband just closed on Broadway, under the title A Doll’s House, Part II. Now the wonderful Irish company The Corn Exchange has commissioned a play, Nora, that looks at the play but from the point of view from 2025.

In Nora by Belinda McKeon, we are in an unnamed modern country. The rules are rigid concerning women. They can’t hold equal footing in business with their husbands. In Nora and her husband Turlough’s business he is the boss. However they started the business—an art gallery—together. Turlough was ill for some of the early days and Nora did a deal that clinched their success. Now that deal is coming back to haunt them. The climate is awful. People have to take shots to be healthy. They can’t be out in the rain. This is an interesting tangent to the story.

Appearance is everything in this arty world. Success is the only outcome. Paul O’Mahony has created a stark black and white set. The furniture is spare and black. The floor is white. There is a large white ‘painting’ in the back that could be a view of the harbor. Not sure. Nora wears all white. Everyone else where’s black. I love that irony for people who deal in art. Nora and her husband are hosting an important party and everything has to be perfect. Until unwanted guests arrive.

For some reason Belinda McKeon has divided Nora into two—as mother and her daughter Emmy. Emmy is 15 but is dressed for the party by her mother as if she’s 25, in a slinky black leather dress and high heeled shoes too unwieldy for the kid. It’s as if Nora is offering Emmy up for ogling.

The artistic director of The Corn Exchange is Annie Ryan, a smart director and terrific artistic director. She also plays Nora and that is a mistake. She’s hesitant, awkward and not at all comfortable in her skin. The rest of the cast is fine. Eoghan Carrick has directed this with lots of space between characters to focus on how distant they are in reality. That can be a bit dodgy at times.

Setting this in an art world somehow does not have the power and force of a more substantial world such as the banking world of the original. And dividing Nora in two between herself and her daughter doesn’t work either because it introduces the creepy world of sexual predators (one of Nora’s friends has his eye on Emmy and Emmy’s parents are not interested in knowing) that seems to be tacked on and when it requires its own play, it seems to me.

Nora is part of the Dublin Theatre Festival and plays until Oct. 15.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.