Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”
Directed by Glenn Roberts
10th - 13th October in the Drama Studio
Image by Chris Sexton
Our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was father's doll-child, and here the children have been my dolls.
Nora is a young lady who has it all - beauty, a lovely house, healthy children and a successful husband. So why does she feel like something is missing?
Having been ruled her whole life by either her father or her husband Torvald, does Nora know who she really is?
And when a mistake from the past comes back to haunt her and her marriage is really put to the test, will she finally find what she has been looking for?
- Suzie James
- Torvald Helmer
- Neil Sullivan
- Jaimie Watts
- Mrs. Linde
- Erin Whyte
- Dr. Rank
- Alex Moore
- Anne (Nurse)
- Carol Kelly
- Helen (Maid)
- Brenae Maxwell
A Doll's House opens as Nora Helmer returns from Christmas shopping. Her husband Torvald comes out of his study to banter with her. They discuss how their finances will improve now that Torvald has a new job as the vice president of the bank. Torvald expresses his horror of debt. Nora behaves childishly and he enjoys treating her like a child to be instructed and indulged.
Soon an old friend of Nora's, Christine Linde, arrives. She is a childless widow who is moving back to the city. Her husband left her no money, so she has tried different kinds of work, and now hopes to find some work that is not too strenuous. Nora confides to Christine that she once secretly borrowed money from a disgraced lawyer, Nils Krogstad, to save Torvald's life when he was very ill, but she has not told him in order to protect his pride. She told everyone that the money came from her father, who died at about the same time. She has been repaying the debt from her housekeeping budget, and also from some work she got copying papers by hand, which she did secretly in her room, and took pride in her ability to earn money "as if she were a man." Torvald's new job promises to finally liberate her from this debt.
Nora asks Torvald to give Christine a position as a secretary in the bank, and he agrees, as she has experience in bookkeeping. They leave the house together.
Krogstad arrives and tells Nora that he is worried he will be fired. He asks her to help him keep his job and says that he will fight desperately to keep it. Nora is reluctant to commit to helping him, so Krogstad reveals that he knows she committed forgery on the bond she signed for her loan from him. As a woman, she needed an adult male co-signer, so she said she would have her father do so. However the signature is dated three days after his death, which suggests that it is a forgery. Nora admits that she did forge the signature, so as to spare her dying father further worry about her (she was pregnant, poor, and had a seriously ill husband). Krogstad explains that the forgery betrayed his trust and is also a serious crime. If he told others about it, her reputation would be ruined, as was his after a similar "indiscretion," even though he was never prosecuted. He implies that what he did was in order to provide for his sick wife, who later died.
Christine arrives to help Nora repair a dress for a costume party she and Torvald are going to wear next day. Then Torvald comes home from the bank and Nora pleads with him to reinstate Krogstad at the bank. She claims she is worried that Krogstad will publish libelous articles about Torvald and ruin his career. Torvald dismisses her fears and explains that although Krogstad is a good worker and seems to have turned his life around, he insists on firing him because Krogstad is not deferential enough to him in front of other bank personnel. Torvald goes into his study to do some work.
Next Dr. Rank, a family friend, arrives. Nora talks about asking him for a favor. Then he reveals that he has entered the terminal stage of tuberculosis of the spine (a contemporary euphemism for congenital syphilis) and that he has always been secretly in love with her. Nora tries to deny the first revelation and make light of it, but she is more disturbed by the second. She tries clumsily to tell him that she is not in love with him, but loves him dearly as a friend.
Desperate after being fired by Torvald, Krogstad arrives at the house. Nora gets Dr. Rank to go in to Torvald's study, so he does not see Krogstad. When Krogstad comes in he declares he no longer cares about the remaining balance of Nora's loan, but that he will preserve the associated bond in order to blackmail Torvald into not only keeping him employed, but giving him a promotion. Nora explains that she has done her best to persuade her husband, but he refuses to change his mind. Krogstad informs Nora that he has written a letter detailing her crime (forging her father's signature of surety on the bond) and puts it in Torvald's mailbox, which is locked.
Nora tells Christine of her predicament. Christine says that she and Krogstad were in love before she married, and promises that she will try to convince him to relent.
Torvald comes in and tries to check his mail, but Nora distracts him by begging him to help her with the dance she has been rehearsing for the costume party, as she is so anxious about performing. She dances so badly and acts so worried that Torvald agrees to spend the whole evening coaching her. When the others go in to dinner, Nora stays behind for a few minutes and contemplates suicide to save her husband from the shame of the revelation of her crime, and more importantly to pre-empt any gallant gesture on his part to save her reputation.
Christine tells Krogstad that she only married her husband because she had no other means to support her sick mother and young siblings, and that she has returned to offer him her love again. She believes that he would not have stooped to unethical behavior if he had not been devastated by her abandonment and in dire financial straits. Krogstad is moved and offers to take back his letter to Torvald. However, Christine decides that Torvald should know the truth for the sake of his and Nora's marriage.
After literally dragging Nora home from the party, Torvald goes to check his mail, but is interrupted by Dr. Rank, who has followed them. Dr. Rank chats for a while so as to convey obliquely to Nora that this is a final goodbye, as he has determined that his death is near, but in general terms so that Torvald does not suspect what he is referring to. Dr. Rank leaves, and Torvald retrieves his letters. As he reads them Nora steels herself to take her life. Torvald confronts her with Krogstad's letter. Enraged, he declares that he is now completely in Krogstad's power—he must yield to Krogstad's demands and keep quiet about the whole affair. He berates Nora, calling her a dishonest and immoral woman and telling her she is unfit to raise their children. He says that from now on their marriage will be only a matter of appearances.
A maid enters, delivering a letter to Nora. Krogstad has returned the incriminating papers, saying that he regrets his actions. Torvald exults that he is saved as he burns the papers. He takes back his harsh words to his wife and tells her that he forgives her. Nora realizes that her husband is not the strong and gallant man she thought he was, and that he truly loves himself more than he does her.
Torvald explains that when a man has forgiven his wife it makes him love her all the more since it reminds him that she is totally dependent on him, like a child. He dismisses Nora's agonized choice made against her conscience for the sake of his health and her years of secret efforts to free them from the ensuing obligations and danger of loss of reputation, while preserving his peace of mind, as a mere mistake that she made owing to her foolishness, one of her most endearing feminine traits.
Nora tells Torvald that she is leaving him to live alone so she can find out who she is and what she believes and decide what to do with her life. She says she has been treated like a doll to play with, first by her father and then by him. Concerned for the family reputation, Torvald insists that she fulfill her duty as a wife and mother, but Nora says that her first duties are to herself, and she cannot be a good mother or wife without learning to be more than a plaything. She reveals that she had expected that he would want to sacrifice his reputation for hers, and that she had planned to kill herself to prevent him from doing so. She now realizes that Torvald is not at all the kind of person she had believed him to be, and that their marriage has been based on mutual fantasies and misunderstanding.
Torvald is unable to comprehend Nora's point of view, since it contradicts all that he had been taught about the female mind throughout his life. Furthermore, he is so narcissistic that it would be impossible for him to bear to understand how he appears to her, as selfish, hypocritical and more concerned with public reputation than with actual morality. Nora leaves her keys and wedding ring and as Torvald breaks down and begins to cry, baffled by what has happened, Nora leaves the house, slamming the door behind herself.