Helen Christinson plays Nora in A Doll's House at La Boite's roundhouse theatre during Brisbane Festival 2014. Pic: Contributed
Helen Christinson plays Nora in A Doll's House at La Boite's roundhouse theatre during Brisbane Festival 2014. Pic: Contributed

A chance encounter let me in on A Doll House's secrets

WHILE teetering delicately on three-legged chairs, the stilted characters in A Doll's House avoid true human interaction.

They speak in opposite directions throughout the whole three-act piece, seemingly symbolising the disconnect between people in high society in the 19th century.

There are just a handful of times when their gaze falls directly on another; the few moments these characters are true to themselves and each other.

The actors must require impressive core and quad muscles to sit almost effortlessly on the chairs with missing legs on the edge of a small, square stage at La Boite's roundhouse theatre in Brisbane.

American-Australian playwright Lally Katz has joined with director Steven Mitchell Wright to adapt this Henrik Ibsen classic.

The Danish play, now more than 100 years old, tells a tale of domestic revolution, marriage, motherhood and female empowerment.

The chairs seem to signify the imbalance between men and women, the lack of equality, and how quickly a world can crumble when lies prevail.

These are assumptions, though.

The dialogue is brilliant but the symbolism is questionable, bordering on over the top at times and too subtle at others.

While it is laid on thick in some scenes, there are so many layers of symbolism that it can be difficult for the audience to interpret - like it is in code.

A chance meeting with some of the cast at the Speigeltent was somewhat enlightening on one perplexing element.

Apparently each character is a particular colour to reflect individuality and how easily society can pigeon-hole people.

Helen Christinson plays Nora - the woman who seems to have it all with successful husband, adorable children and beautiful house.

She arrives on the dreary stage in a stunning pink period dress but Nora takes a while to warm to.

Every time her husband Torvald (Hugh Parker) enters the room, she behaves like an excitable schoolgirl with little wit or smarts.

But as the powerful drama progresses, it reveals the intricate web of secrets and lies behind the seemingly picture perfect life through Nora's interactions with long-time friend Kristine (Cienda McNamara), Krogstad (Chris Beckey) and Dr Rank (Damien Cassidy).

When first performed in 1879, A Doll's House caused massive controversy and outrage throughout Europe for its criticism of women's role in the 19th century.

In 2001, the play was inscribed on UNESCO's prestigious Memory of the World Register to recognise historical importance.

The cast in this adapted version, which ends in a contemporary suburban household, works well together.

They deliver their lines delightfully, though the occasional speaking songs were not executed as well by every member of the cast.

Art is supposed to challenge your thinking, push your boundaries and this play does just that.

A Doll's House runs until September 27. Visit http://www.brisbanefestival.com.au/whats-on/a-dolls-house to buy tickets. - APN NEWSDESK