Belvoir Upstairs, August 13

Nora res
Blazey Best as Nora. Photo: Brett Boardman.

When Nora walks out on her husband and children in A Doll’s House we understand why. In this new play bearing her name (and the credit “After A Doll’s House “) by Kit Brookman and Anne-Louise Sarks (who also directs it) we are given scant reason for her going.

Yes, her husband Torvald (Damien Ryan) is relentlessly patronising, and yes, her children (Indianna Gregg and Toby Challenor) can, like most children be irritating (as well as rather entertaining). But any sense of a crisis sufficient to push her out the door is half-baked (so the stakes fail to rise) and mired in sluggish dramaturgy. The frustration of the Nora of Ibsen’s play is much more poignant than little bouts of crying and a brief row.

Rather than being shown why Nora (Blazey Best) must leave to discover her identity as a non-wife/non-mother we are told about it in Act Two when she lobs on the doorstep of Helen (Linda Cropper), a work colleague from many years before. Even then we do not witness the moment of inherent drama when Helen opens the door to this relative stranger; it is recounted shortly after the event.

That Nora is disinclined to and probably incapable of explaining her reasons is credible and legitimate. To depict this via interminable silences as they wait for the kettle to boil and make up the sofa bed is the inverse of theatre. The eventual heart of Nora’s motivation – “My children cannot be a reason for being” – should be heart-breaking, but is not.

Marg Horwell’s set for the family home delineates each room with steel frames, so many exchanges occur in some far-flung corner of the stage where faces are bisected by steel, or obscured altogether. This hardly facilitates drawing us into a drama that needs all the help it can get.

The dialogue is limp, and Best (like the other actors) is provided with little to build a character around, so presents a listless non-entity for whose predicament we can muster little sympathy. In fact by the end we are barely curious whether she clings to her brave new life or retreats to her children (if not her husband). The concepts of “a Nora for our times” and “what Nora did next” had legs, but this play is neither.

 Until September 14.