Nora (a Doll’s House) – Nora and Torvald Helmer seem to have a model marriage. He has a career, and she is the sweetest, most devoted wife an ambitious man could wish for. In the not-too-distant past, however, Nora committed minor fraud in her husband’s interest, and now she is in the throes of a blackmailer… Ibsen’s famous play, considered utterly scandalous at the time it was written, is still surprisingly topical today. Nebeský stages it as the story of a contemporary young trophy wife and mother, shaped to perfection by her ambitious husband.
The Helmers are swimming in a happiness that is more of a numbness, a desire for time to stop. We are living on an aspen leaf. We long for security. We want to fend off the end, death, and to cover it with material things. (…) Suppressed fear of uncertainty and surprise, fear of change, the dogged attempt to maintain one’s living standards. Only madmen can agree to such a contract. They would like to insure everything – this is reason gone mad. This is how director Jan Nebeský sees Ibsens’s play. His production is a major return, in two senses of the word. This is the eighth time that he has been involved with Ibsen’s work, and he is is returning to the Divadlo pod Palmovkou theatre in Libeň, where his production of Ghosts started this encounter twenty-eight years ago. Today it is possible to claim that Nebeský’s concept was the beginning of a new way of producing Ibsen on Czech stages. Until then he had been veiled in a spiderweb of descriptive realism and tendentious interpretation, but now he appeared in full force as a master of imagery and evocation, an author able to speak to the modern era.
// CREDITS //
Translation: František Fröhlich
Direction: Jan Nebeský
Set: Jan Nebeský and Jana Preková
Dramaturgy and adaptation: Daria Ullrichová
Music: Miroslav Hloucal
Costumes: Jana Preková
Movement assistance: Nataša Novotná
JUDr. Torvald Helmer: Jan Teplý
Nora, his wife: Tereza Dočkalová
MuDr. Henrik Rank: Jan Hušek
Kristina Lindová: Kateřina Holánová
JUDr. Nils Krogstad: Radek Valenta
Maid: Hana Seidlová
Piano: Jan Fečo nebo Emil Viklický nebo Jakub Tökely
Trumpet: Miroslav Hloucal
Premiere: 16 December 2016
// AUTHOR //
Jan Nebeský (1953) Czech theatre director and teacher. He studied direction at DAMU in Prague. His production of Ernst Jandl’s play From Foreignness at the Divadlo Na zábradlí gained the Alfréd Radok award for Production of the Year in 2004. Since the breakup of the Divadlo Komedie company in 2002 he has pursued a freelance career with Studio Hrdinů, the National Theatre and other Prague theatres (he works with the company 420PEOPLE and DAMÚZA).Since 2004 he has taught direction at DAMU’s drama theatre department. In 2011 he created the Jedl civic association with Lucie Trmíková and David Prachař, a springboard for independent projects combining various types of art (theatre, dance, music, fine art). Nebeský is noted for his exceptional stage imagination; to get to the content of texts he uses artistic symbols, absurd abbreviations and stylised, expressive acting. His productions feature a myriad of unexpected ideas, a specific atmosphere and style. Nebeský’s theatre layers meanings, branches out into free associations, and links themes and layers of text like a collage, with imagination and fantasy winning over intelligibility and readability.
// THEATER POD PALMOYKOU //
Divadlo pod Palmovkou In September 2017 the theatre, under the leadership of its managing director and artistic head Michal Lang, enters its 70th season. For its entire existence the theatre has focused above all on showing strong, big stories, original productions of classic plays, and also the staging of new plays. The theatre has two stages – a large one with an audience capacity of 280, and the PalmOFFka studio with a capacity of 80, which shows auteur-style and generational theatre aimed at the contemporary young and middle generations, and experimental theatre. The theatre organises the international theatre festival PALM OFF FEST, which first took place in 2016.
// PRESS //
This time, however, Nebeský is betting above all on the weight of the acting to give the production an urgent and evocatively artificial theatrical form that goes beyond the linear limits given by the real facts of Ibsen’s drama. He thus takes the liberty, at the beginning of each act, to change the genre from bourgeois drama into cabaret with the use of several songs (music by Miroslav Hloucal), in which the piano and trumpet are sharp, aggressive, almost brash, and Hana Seidlová sings them brilliantly in just this way, so that the words on debt taken from the Civil Code becomes almost a Brechtian commentary on the story.
Dočkalová, as Nora, acts ferociously, believably, charmingly and with convincing naturalness a bewitching young woman who lives, happy and satisfied, in a “house of puppets”. Convinced of the rightness of her behaviour and actions, she develops in virtuoso style a number of elements that allow her to express this concept of womanhood. Jan Teplý, as her husband, reveals in every detail his fondness of this kind of Nora, as if he were constantly provoking erotic and sexual tension.
Jan Císař, Lidové noviny
Nebeský (…) tips the “power and gender” conflict between husband and wife into exaggerated caricature, so that the artificial way in which it is constructed is less distracting. Nora’s inner conflict, on the other hand, is developed with provocative ambiguity, emphasising her fumbling and uncertainty – and as a result he consistently avoids simple answers.
Tereza Dočkalová is excellent in the title role. What at first appears like quintessentially banal naivety gradually gives way to dark places. In defiance of the more serious tones, she hangs on to her expression of a sweetly irresponsible doll, although it takes a greater and greater toll on her nerves and dignity. This internal tension in the main character turns out to be the main driving force – and Dočkalová knows how to deal with it in such a way that it is not clear when this apparently laughable woman is pretending, and when she is being herself. Or whether she is more herself when she is pretending.
Vladimír Mikulka, Divadelní noviny
All that is needed are actors and a glass case displaying shoes. The image of an artificial household – a “doll’s house” – is in Nebeský’s production so strong that you do not even have time to notice that the details of the text do not always correspond to the contemporary story. And the climax, which brings us down to earth!
DN, Divadelní noviny
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