Noma Dumezweni and June Watson shine in this unexpectedly successful Ibsen sequel – A Doll’s House Part 2 – playing at the Donmar Warehouse
“There’s the door – I know you know how to use it!”
Was A Doll’s House calling out for a sequel? I’m not so sure it was but Ibsen’s enduring gift for strong classical roles for women means he is still frequently programmed so perhaps it is unsurprising that Lucas Hnath took that further step. And the result is the smart and snappy A Doll’s House Part 2, directed here with real skill by James Macdonald for the Donmar Warehouse.
Picking up 15 years after that famous slam of the door, Nora is returning to her former marital home for the first time. She’s made the most of that time, developing a career as a successful feminist writer but circumstances have necessitated this visit to the family and housekeeper she left behind. As you might imagine, conversations don’t exactly flow that easily as once again, Nora must stand steadfast for what she wants.
It is a fascinating premise as Ibsen did leave us with a whopping great question – what did Nora do next? – and Hnath is canny enough to frame his response in a more oblique way that just a straight sequel. By presenting us with what everybody in the household did next, the thematic power of the writing hits harder – the echoes of her decision ripple not only through this family but through the literary canon itself.
Noma Dumezweni makes a long awaited return to the London stage as Nora and is fantastic as this iconoclastic figure, full of an innate confidence (supported immeasurably by Rae Smith’s perfect costumery) that is only shaken a little once she realises how everyone’s life as gone on without her. Brían F O’Byrne’s Torvald offers strong counterballast and June Watson is sensational as Anne Marie.
A huge directorial flourish opens the show, which perhaps feels a little extravagant, but it does offer *drama* which is then matched by real drama onstage.