The Corn Exchange and Annie Ryan bring Belinda McKeon’s Nora – after Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House – to the Project Arts Centre as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. Director Eoghan Carrick drags Ibsen’s Nora from her fin de siècle home and situates her in the lap of luxury in the not so distant future. Lurking above gallery curator Nora’s family home is an unspecified terror, an unidentified rot that seeks to disenfranchise a class of Others.
The Corn Exchange rise to the challenge of catapulting Ibsen’s iconic text into a threatening dystopia. The company balances innovation with homage as they honour Ibsen’s Nora, played with subtlety and nuance by founder, Annie Ryan. Joining Ryan’s Nora in her elegant home are updated variations of Ibsen’s cast of characters. Torvald Helmer’s villainy is alive and well in Declan Conlon’s Turlough. Kroger (Peter Gaynor) and Ron (Chirs McHallem) embody the very culture of toxic masculinity that tormented Ibsen’s Nora in 1879. To combat this toxicity, Clare Perkins brings depth and warmth to Krista, a refreshing re-visit of Mrs Linde. Departing from canon, McKeon raises Nora’s daughter Emmy, and centralises her within the narrative. Venetia Bowe shines in the role, bringing complexity and depth to Nora’s previously unseen daughter.
The violence of Nora is thoughtfully juxtaposed with the elegance of the production. Satirising the elitism of the art world, Nora packs an aesthetic punch. Kate Crowley’s costume design plays a pivotal role in style and characterisation. Through the fusion of Paul O’Mahony’s set, and Sarah Jane Shiels’ lighting design, the audience are plunged into the sickly-sweet world of a seemingly perfect family. The intricate beauty of Carrick’s production heightens the terror that threatens to disrupt Nora’s visual tranquility.
The company establish a battleground, on which gender and class conflict are unpacked. A Doll’s House will always be relevant and with Nora, The Corn Exchange keep Nora Helmer’s revolutionary fervour lit.
by Sarah McKenna Barry