Kiln Theatre Summer 2019
Over an eighty year period
several different people find productions of Ibsen's A Doll's House
reflecting, illuminating or changing their lives.
But Samuel Adamson's new
drama, and Indhu Rubasingham's production, operate on such an
unrelentingly shrill and near-hysterical level that a battered audience
has difficulty focusing on the play's ideas.
(A quick reminder: Ibsen's
play tells of Nora, who realises how trapped she is by social conventions
and leaves her husband and children to go off and find herself.)
In 1959 a married woman
carrying on a passionate affair with an actress playing Nora allows
herself to sink into dutiful (and alcoholic) wife- and motherhood. In 1982
her out-and-proud gay son, after seeing an experimental production in
Norwegian, encourages his younger lover to come fully out of the closet,
but the boy lacks the courage.
In 2019 the younger man's
daughter forces the older to recognise that he has let himself slip into
the role of supportive wife to a husband who is putting on a
gender-bending production of Ibsen.
And in a utopian 2040, when
all sexual problems and hang-ups have been removed, a fully emancipated
young woman helps a jaded actress in a conventional staging of the Ibsen
rediscover and celebrate Nora as patron saint of all who seek to liberate
(As you might sense, a minor
running gag of Adamson's play is a satire of stage directors who are not
content to present a play as written.)
Each scene of Wife involves
both heated debates on the sorts of issues raised by Ibsen's play and
painfully emotional self-explorations. But everything, outward- or
inward-turning, is conducted with an operatic intensity and shrill yelling
that is eventually counter-productive, threatening to reduce everything to
the same level of contentless noise.
Everyone in the small cast,
who double and redouble roles in a mix-and-match way, is limited by being
directed on a one-note level that allows little opportunity for subtle or
Karen Fishwick is able to
convey some of the pain of the wife in the first scene and Richard Cant
some of the compromises with reality the older gay man has made in the
Wife seems like a potentially interesting play, and perhaps someday a director who will allow it moments of less frantic quietness will bring out more of what it wants to say.
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Review - Wife - Kiln Theatre 2019