Inside... Nora: A Doll's House takes you behind the scenes, giving you an insight into how this production came to life. From the original idea and the people behind the script, to the creatives and production teams who do amazing work to bring the show to our stage, Inside... Nora: A Doll's House explores how different elements come together to form what you experience at the Young Vic.
Keep coming back to this page as it will be updated with new content throughout the run.
What inspired Nora: A Doll's House | Stef Smith
From the Rehearsal Room
Developing Movement and Choreography | Júlia Levai (Jerwood Assistant Director)Toggle
The Tarantella is the most climactic moment of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House symbolising both Nora’s fear and anxiety within the story of Nathan (Krogstad in Ibsen) who threatens to reveal Nora’s secret to Thomas (Helmer), whilst also more broadly symbolising Nora’s attempt to break away from the constraints that society placed on her. This idea of breaking away and getting out of control was something we wanted to capture the essence of the original story and place it into each of our three Noras’ experiences. In order to do that it became quickly apparent that we would create a dance which involved all three Noras dancing with Thomas in some way or form.
It’s been hugely exciting to see how Elizabeth Freestone (director) and EJ Boyle (movement director) worked in collaboration to bring the language of the movement and the dance to life. We first started out by briefly discussing the origins of the Tarantella which EJ talked about how it was an Italian folk dance known for its quick steps and was also connected to the thought to be disease, tarantism. Tarantism, was thought to be a form of hysteria that appeared in Italy between the 15th and 17th century associated with the bite of the tarantula spider which believed to be cured by frenzied dancing (the tarantella).
Taking this idea of more and more frenzied dancing, Elizabeth was keen to create a dance sequence which starts as a couple dance between Nora and Thomas that becomes more frenzied and slowly gets out of control allowing the Noras to the take over the space pushing Thomas to step out from the dance. Using this arc as the dramaturgy for the dance combined with the idea to have all three eras (1918, 1968 & 2018) appear in the dance EJ started off by teaching moves from dances of each eras without worrying at all about choreography. I found it an extremely helpful and productive way of working as instead of diving straight into a complicated choreography we first learnt separate moves used in each of the three time periods. Once the actors had the moves down we listened to Michael John McCarthy’s (Composer & Sound Designer) composition for the dance and slowly started to think about how the moves could tell the story of the dance getting out of control.
Through several sessions - including sessions during the preview period we then went on to create swiftly moving choreography which aimed to move from one Nora to another quickly and without stopping allowing the momentum and intensity to build to the climactic moment of Nora saying “Fine. Then I dance with myself if I have to. Watch me!”. This then led into a solo / deconstruction of the movement used in the couple section in the beginning of the choreography. One of the most important elements to how this dance was developed for me was the clear and collaborative relationship between Elizabeth and EJ - seeing how the dramaturgy of the dance which Elizabeth wanted was translated into movement by EJ in collaboration and together with the cast. It’s also been hugely exciting to see the dance develop and change as we were trying to find the way to capture the essence of Ibsen’s original script combined with Stef’s new perspective on it to make it into a moment of the Noras being truly free and out of control even if only for a short moment.
The Creative Process
EJ Boyle: How movement was used in Nora: A Doll's HouseToggle
We set out a lot of workshop time at the beginning of our rehearsal process to discover the role of movement in the production. The narrative shifting between time periods was a clear starting point in the cast physically developing characters who convincingly existed in each of those periods, and then enable them to shift rapidly between those characters across different eras.
In the building of the character relationships we did a lot of work on the space/distance between characters, tension levels, pace, levels of threat, exploring physical manipulation and the levels and methods of physical contact between characters. Defining these for each character and each relationship in turn helped us tell the story of the control/power balances, not only between the characters but in each of the Nora’s overarching relationship with the time period she lived in and what expectations and elements of control that era placed on her.
In addition, for me, the theme of emotional repression, pretence and consequent emotional release running through Stef’s script felt like such an important element of the piece, and hugely influenced the overall movement language that was developed.
Michael John McCarthy: How sound was used in Nora: A Doll's HouseToggle
Both the sound and the music were created by MJ in the rehearsal room and were designed to complement the emotional journey of the play. It also helped us tell the story: the Noras have a chord that is played when the play fractures into their monologues and poetic sections. The sound is also used to mark the shifts in time: we found a combination of strong physicality from the actors, a lighting shift, and a sound moment an effective and precise way of jumping between 1918, 1968, and 2018 in a matter of seconds. We used some of MJ's original music in our trailer for the play.
MJ explained "There's an extent to which the use of sound in Nora is all built around one moment of silence. Even as the audience enters the auditorium before the show begins, there is a very low level room-tone (a bit like the sound of a very quiet air conditioning system) playing through the speakers. It's barely perceptible but you'd notice the difference if it was switched off. Throughout the production various layers of music and sound come and go, always with an atmospheric layer in the background, leading up to the moment where Thomas leaves the room after almost hitting Nora. It was the director's wish, from our very first conversation, that this moment where each Nora realises that she is about to leave her home and family, would be the first and only moment of silence in the entire production. I don't know if many or any audience members are aware of this silence, but my hope is that they feel the difference it makes, even if they couldn't say exactly what has changed."