A Doll’s House, Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond

By Christina McIntyre

HENRIK Ibsen’s classic exploration of marriage, the gender divide and patriarchal society contains themes as controversial today as it was in the late 19th century.

The difference, perhaps, could be heard in the outraged laughter from the contemporary audience at the worst excesses of Torvald’s condescension and at his frequent use of the term “little”.

On a neat cornflower blue set of traditional furnishings and multiple doorways, the four actors took the packed house on a stimulating journey.

Felicity Rhys was engaging as the spoilt Nora, whose life had seen her passed from father to husband to be indulged and kept as a "plaything".

Notwithstanding my firm feminist ideology, I couldn’t help but feel irritated when her skittish, manipulative behaviours were exposed. This ambivalence is the brilliance in Ibsen’s writing – is Nora to be derided, pitied or admired?

UK Touring Theatre’s production drew out the contrast between the material comfort of Nora’s married life and the “bitter” reality of widowed friend Kristine’s independence. As Nora and Kristine essentially swap places, Nora to pursue her own path, and Kristine to attach herself to a husband, the play gives rise to multiple layers of debate about how a life could or should be best lived, and the extent to which people are a product of their circumstances.

Adam Redmayne was suitably conceited as the patronising Torvald, while Laura-Kate Gordon and Christopher Llewellyn skilfully provided the rest of the characters – childhood friend Kristine, maid Anne-Marie, faithful friend Dr Rank and blackmailer Nils Krogstad.

As Nora’s dawning realisation of the reality of her situation pushes her to the edge, the pace built steadily to its final scene. Far from ending at the curtain call, I could imagine the delighted audience ardently debating its themes long into the night.