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.
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.
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
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,
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 themselves.
(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 nuanced characterisations.
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 third.
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