001 – A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House remains one the most popularly produced and adapted plays in theatrical history. What is it about a play that was written more than 140 years ago that continues to inspire and challenge contemporary playwrights and audiences? The character of Nora is an iconic figure: her decision to leave her husband and three children remains a controversial act of female agency. To explore the enduring relevance of this classic play, we are joined by Dan Rebellato, playwright and Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. The episode coincides with a radical new adaptation of the play by Stef Smith that played at the Young Vic theatre in London.
Dan Rebellato is a playwright, journalist and Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has written 17 stage plays and numerous radio plays, published several books on contemporary British theatre, as well as edited the Nick Hern series of Terence Rattigan’s plays.
In February 2020 Dan devised and hosted a day-long symposium entitled Re-Imagining Nora, to coincide with a new production of A Doll’s House at the Young Vic theatre in London. As the title suggests, the symposium examined the enduring interest in our reviving and adapting Ibsen’s great play. Visit Dan’s website here
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We have footnotes for this episode …
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It is 1789 and a group of convicts in the newly-founded colony of Botany Bay in Australia are assembled to put on a production of George Farquhar’s Restoration Comedy The Recruiting Officer. The true story of this unlikely theatrical enterprise is the subject of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s award-winning play, Our Country’s Good, which premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 1988 almost exactly 200 years after the events it portrays. The play is a vivid portrait of the volatile new settlement in New South Wales, which raises timeless questions about what makes for a country’s good: the exercise of justice, the iniquities of class, the value of education and culture, and particularly of the redemptive power of theatre itself.
It made complete logical sense to follow our last episode on The Recruiting Officer with this wonderful play, and even more sense to invite Director Matt Beresford back to talk us through it.
George Farquhar’s rollicking Restoration Comedy The Recruiting Officer is ostensibly a portrait of officers engaged in the nefarious art of impressing men into the army in the country town of Shrewsbury, but it is as much a tale of the local ladies themselves recruiting for lovers and husbands. The classic comic satire of love and war, and sex and deception was first performed at Drury Lane in 1706, and went on to become one of the most frequently performed plays of the 18th century and a staple of education curricula and theatre programming ever since.
Director Matt Beresford joins us to assess the ‘recruiting officers” respective strategies and successes.
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Leopoldstadt opened in the West End in January 2020, only to be closed prematurely by the pandemic a few weeks later. Happily it has returned to the London stage this Autumn, and I am privileged and delighted to talk in this episode with the director of the London productions, playwright Patrick Marber.
Before the theatres went dark this month I was lucky enough to see Caryl Churchill’s A Number at the Bridge, and spend more than seven hours in thrall to Robert Lepage’s Seven Streams of the River Ota at the National. Plus, some thoughts on what we miss when there is no theatre.
Another great mix of shows this month, from Tom Stoppard’s new play, to Ibsen, Beckett and newer plays in smaller London venues.
The January roundup included both classic plays, such as The Duchess of Malfi, Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters, as well as recent musicals Dear Evan Hansen and Girl from the North Country …