Mabou Mines Dollhouse (2 stars)

This article is from 2007.

Mabou Mines Dollhouse

Inspired by Ibsen

Bad taste is always a good defence in the theatre of the last few decades. With it, we can reappraise all the conventional attitudes that accrue in both art and society. This, presumably, is the starting point for Mabou Mines DollHouse, a kind of vulgar burlesque of Ibsen’s classic, employing very small men and much taller women, and creating that familiar mock heroic tone that we might expect from those old parody Macbeths where Lady Macbeth cries ‘Out damn’d spot’, and the dog leaves the stage.

It’s all very admirable in some ways to strip away the canonical expectations that might surround a classic, but here it’s hard to know what purpose is served. Certainly Narelle Sissons’ real doll’s house set, over the flats of which the actors toss props when they are done with them, is interesting to observe, and there are references to naturalism and melodrama in the text which shed a certain ironic light on Ibsen’s original technique. But is there enough here, beneath all the comic faux Scandinavian accents, to tell us anything new about the oppressive patriarchy so mercilessly exposed in Ibsen’s original? Perhaps not.

Beyond the odd mild titter provoked by some good comic playing, the audience seemed less confronted than mystified. While there’s a strong conclusion, involving a wall of puppets in theatre boxes looking on, Muppet Show-like, as Maude Mitchell’s Nora (a very astute performance) strips naked and removes her elegant wig in confronting the many masks she’s had to wear, we’re still left with a question: Why? (Steve Cramer)

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, run ended

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