On Monday night I went to see A Doll's House at the Young Vic and I really can't recommend it enough.
The play was of course written and set in late 1800s but it really is very modern, even now, I know people say that and you probably see the Victorian costumes and think oh yeah I bet it isn't- but this is! Torvald is a banker, Krogstad is a clerk- both are legally trained, Dr. Rank is a doctor, everyone (male) is a professional. The play constantly discusses financial hard times, the struggle to maintain a certain lifestyle- and it discusses in this case a women's dependence on men- though Ibsen was very clear he didn't mean to write a feminist play, he meant to write a play about people having their own identity, male or female- but the play was considered shocking at the time because that individual was a woman- and it resonates today because it's a woman I think- though maybe someone will do a production where Nora is the breadwinner and Torvald the house husband- it would work just as well if it were done well, I think.
The post below about marrying for money loomed large in my mind while watching the play. I've had the discussion recently with friends, partly because of what I wrote below, about thoughts on marrying for money- no one explicitly said they would but everyone said it would be great- and some said they really have thought about it seriously- or are thinking about it seriously.
Nora and Christine don't marry for money because they have a choice though, they marry at a time when they were either their Father or husband's responsibility and if anything happened to either and you as a daughter or wife weren't provided for you were seriously stuck. Christine works as she's a widow- and she says she loves to work and it gave her her identity, Nora does some work but she has to hide it from her husband because he would be angry- and perhaps ashamed.
The play is very sad- very sad for everyone- but Nora's situation is particularly difficult.You begin the play thinking she is ridiculous, acting like a little girl and begging for treats like a child would beg for a doll- but you realise she has to be this way to get anything in life, it is the only way for her. You also realise she has courage and she has morals, they are different morals to the norms of her society though. She considers her families well being above their respectability, which is standard now but it's clear it wasn't necessarily then.
So how far we've come- everyone- it's easy to watch costume dramas and think you'd have been better having been in a time gone by (I always think I'd have done very well pre War) but the likelihood is you would have been a scullery maid working all hours with only every other Wednesday afternoon off- and it would have been rubbish. The likelihood is not that you would have been a Mitford, or a Bronte sister or a suffragette.
A Doll's House is a great play but it is dependent on a good Nora and Hattie Morahan is a great one in my opinion- sickly sweet when she needs to be but gravely serious and very real when the play requires. Importantly you are with her, even at the play's conclusion, which is controversial even now. As the lights dimmed I thought good luck to her Nora, good luck to all the Noras.