Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Secrets, lies and scandal are at the heart of Zinnie Harris' Edwardian update of Henrik Ibsen's proto-feminist classic, directed here by Graham McLaren for this National Theatre of Scotland/Royal Lyceum co-production. By setting this tale of one woman's emancipation from the male world that controls her among the political classes, Harris gives an even sharper edge to the public consequences of private actions.
Amy Manson's Nora is here the trophy wife of Thomas Vaughan, a newly appointed cabinet minister who Nora nursed through a six month depression. As the pair move into the house that comes with Thomas' job, Nora is haunted by the figure of Neil Kelman, Thomas' predecessor, who left his post under a cloud, and who illegally loaned Nora money to survive during Thomas' illness. As Nora spends much of the play trying to keep the truth from Thomas, it's clear that she is no little girl, but an intelligent, passionate and sexually voracious young woman.
For all its slow-moving erotic drive, as the time of day is projected onto the wall of Robert Innes Hopkins' stately town house set, there's something mannered at the heart of McLaren's ambitious production. While this is largely to do with a playing style that threatens to teeter into melodrama, there are some fascinating moments, with Nora's relationship with Kevin McMonagle's Dr Rank moving beyond the flirtatious to something more troubling. It's Nora's final confrontation with Hywel Simons' Thomas, however, that exposes the full emotional shallowness of a misogynistic world that only sees women as sexual play-things who must remain loyal no matter what. Taken down a notch, such a brutal truth could hit home even harder.
The Herald, April 18th 2013