Servant directs others;Set play

4th June 1999 at 01:00
A Doll's House. By Henrik Ibsen. Compass Theatre, touring.

Ibsen outraged public opinion in 1879 with this story of Nora Helmer, a bank manager's naively happy wife who discovers her individuality then walks out on her husband.

Director Neil Sissons emphasises the climax by having the family servant (Jane Montgomery) double as a visible stage manager, cueing entries and operating sound- effects - until the final moment when Beatrice Comins's Nora clicks on the tape to orchestrate her character's leaving the doll's house.

It's a major challenge to make Nora believably the same person in the early acts as at the end. Sissons says: "The key is in the knowledge she pushes away from herself and the element of self-disgust in her line near the end, 'I've had three children to a stranger. I could tear myself to pieces over that' " (translation by Sissons and Nick Chadwin).

So Nora in the early acts, playfully manipulating people, turns into the purposeful Nora of the last scene, explaining the reality she has come to understand to her complacent husband. For that later Nora, "the scales suddenly drop away. It's a process of self-discovery." Vital, therefore, that what she says does not seem pre-planned.

As the husband knocked off his perch, Torvald Helmer is a victim too. "He's a serious, successful businessman who lacks self-confidence, oddly," says Sissons. Needing his superior domestic role to support him as he goes into the world, "he's trapped in the role of doll husband as Nora is as doll wife. They reinforce each other."

Krogstad, who blackmails Nora, is desperate to claw his way back to respectability. He is, says Sissons, "a reluctant villain, full of self-loathing at what he's forced to do."

Tours to East Grinstead, Wakefield, Hull, Sheffield, Boston, Kings Lynn, Portsmouth, Barnet, Bath, Rhyl, Pontardawe, Ebbw Vale, Liverpool, Hereford to July 16 Details: 0114 275 5328

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