Zinnie Harris' update of Ibsen's A Doll House puts fresh political spin on a proto-feminist classic
'It’s all about how we look at the political couple behind the doors'
In 2009, playwright Zinnie Harris gave Henrik Ibsen’s masterful 19th century dissection of corruption and power a timely update. The acclaimed writer of The Wheel and Further than the Furthest Thing transposed the action from Norway’s financial world in 1879 to political London in 1909, and the show premiered just as the MPs expenses scandal broke.
‘I felt there was a real parallel between the world of scandal that Ibsen talks about and the world of politics,’ says Harris. With the play’s Scottish debut on the horizon, that parallel still stands: ‘Look at the Vicky Pryce case that’s just happened. It’s all about how we look at the political couple behind the doors.’
At the centre of A Doll’s House is Nora, a naïve young wife. Her husband Thomas (originally Torvald) is an up-and-coming politician, and the play focuses on how their seemingly happy life is undermined by secrets and damaging marital expectations.
In this National Theatre of Scotland production, directed by Graham McLaren, Scottish actor Amy Manson takes on the role of Nora. And it’s a crucial one, as Nora’s final moment of clarity makes A Doll’s House an early feminist classic.
Harris explains: ‘I wanted to re-set it just before the First World War, when the role of women politically and domestically was just turning. And at the end, it’s one of those iconic moments where you know the world is going to be different because of the actions of this one woman.’
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 16 Apr–Sat 4 May.