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No child’s play

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Of freedom A scene from the play.
Of freedom A scene from the play.

“A Doll’s House” is a well-executed venture.

Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen continues to fascinate Hindi theatregoers.

Most of his plays have a striking relevance to our time and situation, particularly “A Doll’s House”. This play’s protest against the inhuman aspects of a patriarchal society is forcefully conveyed by Brechtian Mirror’s production in Hindi translation, “Gudiyon Ka Khel”, presented this past week at LTG auditorium.

Sponsored by the Royal Norway Embassy in India, the play is directed by Amitava Dasgupta, a Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee for stage direction. Having directed this play for Brechtian Mirror in 1996, Amitava has, in this revived version, used a new translation and a cast consisting of graduates from the National School of Drama and experienced amateur actors.

One of the production’s highlights is the director’s meticulous attention to creating the right décor and a score which is intricate and subtle. To add visual beauty, a room is formed upstage, using spotless white transparent drapery. The main action takes place in the couple’s room. Pardeep Verneker, an NSD graduate and an imaginative light designer, creates light effects that heighten the emotional and psychological confrontation of characters. The short dance numbers by Nora and Helmer enhance the emotional impact.

When the play opens, the couple appears happy. Gradually, with the arrival of other characters, secret aspects of their relationships emerge, creating an undercurrent of unease and foreboding. Helmer loves his wife as if she were a mere doll without a brain, with unquestioning obedience to her husband. At one place while expressing his displeasure at a trifle impropriety, he says, “My little songbird mustn’t do that again. A songbird must have a clear voice to sing with — no false notes.” We watch with bated breath Nora’s agonised attempt to wriggle out of a critical situation to hide some facts from her husband and to escape from a blackmailer.

Subtle touches

The climactic scene is remarkable for subtle touches; the crisis seems to be all over for Helmer. He sighs with relief and wants to love his ‘bird’, but Nora has her own plans. Through her emotional crisis she has seen through her male chauvinist husband. She declares her determination to leave home, to lead a meaningful life in the free outside world. This decision is something unimaginable for Helmer.

Gulista as Nora captures emotional layers of her complex character with telling effect, revealing her inner turmoil. Her transformation from an unquestioning wife to a bold woman walking out of her marriage is convincing. Kehar Singh, a theatre practitioner from Himachal Pradesh, as Helmer, draws the portrait of his character with deft strokes. Rajan Kapoor as Krogsted, whose blackmailing sets off the chain of events, Arun Mallick as Dr. Rank, a close friend of the couple, Sushila as the maidservant, a silent witness to the disintegration of a family, and Surdhani (Twinkle) as Mrs. Linde, an unhappy woman who tries to save the marriage of Nora and Helmer, give brilliant performances.

DIWAN SINGH BAJELI

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