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Mr Monkey sees A Doll's House at the Royal Exchange Theatre

Mr Monkey looking at the A Doll's House poster outside the theatre
Venue : Royal Exchange Theatre
Start date: 1st May 2013
End date : 1st June 2013
Visit date : 7th May 2013
Nora (Cush Jumbo) worries while decorating the Christmas tree (Royal Exchange Theatre production photo)

Mr Monkey trotted into Manchester for the press night of A Doll's House at the Royal Exchange Theatre.

After checking the poster outside, Mr Monkey scampered in to collect his tickets and await the start of the performance.

Henrik Ibsen wrote A Doll's House in 1879, with the first performance opening in Copenhagen on December 21st. It was an immediate sensation internationally, though it wasn't seriously performed in the UK until 1889. This production is a new adaptation by Bryony Lavery.

The action takes place over three days, and is set in one room of Torvald and Nora Helmer's apartment. Torvald is happy as he's just become the director of a large bank, though it does mean he's got to work over Christmas. Nora is particularly happy as she thinks she's about to be able to pay off a debt and escape the consequences of something she did years before.

Unfortunately for Nora's Christmas, everything goes wrong when she persuades Torvald to give her childhood friend Christine a job at the bank. This act of friendship has dire results for the Helmer marriage.

The set is a neat representation of an uncluttered late nineteenth century apartment, with one side of the side of the hexagon taken up by the doorway and wall which separate the apartment from the outside world. The room is nicely furnished, obviously the result of effort on Nora's part (Torvald spends most of his time in his off-stage study) and appropriate for a rising professional and his family. The entire play takes place in just the one room, so there are no major scene changes, just minor changes such as the addition of a Christmas tree.

Nora (Cush Jumbo) is not reassured by Torvald (David Sturzaker) (Royal Exchange Theatre production photo)

This is another Royal Exchange production that needs a strong female lead to carry the play, and Cush Jumbo is excellent as Nora. Mr Monkey was really impressed by the way she unpeeled the different layers of Nora's character in the earlier scenes, and made her apparently sudden change near the end convincing.

David Sturzaker was very good as Torvald, but he did suffer somewhat in the third act as almost everything he said provoked laughter. Mr Monkey suspects this probably didn't happen in 1879, when this play was genuinely shocking. Playing someone who seems to think he's married to a child or some variety of unthreatening fauna must be difficult.

Krogstad and Christine Linde were well played by Jack Tarlton and Kelly Hotten. Mr Monkey's favourite character was Dr Rank, played by Jamie de Courcey who portrayed the dying man's suppressed emotion and warmth of character excellently. Tessa Bell-Briggs had a nice line in disapproving body language as Anne-Marie the nanny, and the three children were convincingly sibling-like.

Mr Monkey had some qualms about the number of coincidences needed to make the story work, but they're all Henrik Ibsen's fault, not the Royal Exchange's. This was the second time he had seen Cush Jumbo perform and the second time he had been impressed, he recommends that you go and watch her in A Doll's House and and that you watch out for what she does in future.

A Doll's House runs until 1st June 2013.

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