Maidment Theatre, Auckland

02/05/2015 - 23/05/2015

Production Details

Reimagined version of an Ibsen classic a highlight in Auckland Theatre Company’s 2015 season 

One of New Zealand’s leading contemporary novelists, Emily Perkins, has made her first foray into writing for theatre with a reimaging of Henrik Ibsen’s timeless tale of personal revolution, A Doll’s House. The play previews at Auckland’s Maidment Theatre on 30 April. 

Under the direction of Colin McColl, the world premiere of this compelling adaptation is set firmly in contemporary New Zealand. Perkins brings all the incisive wit, intelligence, skill, sensitivity and imagination that readers of her prose are familiar with, to her thrilling exploration of the question that burns at the heart of the play – how do we live with who we become? 

Nora appears to have a picture-perfect marriage. Her husband is ambitious, successful and handsome, and their two children are bundles of joy. But all is not what it seems in the Helmer household. As they prepare to celebrate their first Christmas in their new home, events from the past crash the festivities and Nora’s domestic bliss dances before her eyes. 

Director Colin McColl has a long history as a modern interpreter of Ibsen. His work includes a widely acclaimed production of Hedda Gabler, which played at the Edinburgh, Covent Garden and Sydney Festivals. The A Doll’s House Set and Lighting Designer, Tony Rabbit, also designed that award-winning production. 

A Doll’s House was startlingly controversial when it was first performed in Copenhagen in 1879. A strong woman who ultimately leaves her wealthy husband, and her children, was hugely shocking to theatre-going audiences. The unravelling of the Helmer’s idyllic bourgeois life and their seemingly perfect relationship makes for some of the grittiest playwriting, and is still hugely relevant nearly 150 years on.  

“Of all the writers whom we felt could interpret and craft a contemporary retelling of this electrifying and psychological story, in a time when we are all obsessed with the Nordic noir style, Emily Perkins was certainly the person for the job,” McColl said.

Laurel Devenie (On the Upside Down of the World, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Blue Rose), Peter Elliot (The Graduate, The God of Carnage, Gloss) and Nicola Kawana (Awatea, The Motor Camp, Shortland St) lead the cast, alongside Damien Avery (Underbelly NZ, Nothing Trivial, Wild Bees) and Paul Glover (In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play), The Factory) with two child roles yet to be announced. 

Perkins started her theatre career as an acting student in Toi Whakaari’s stellar Class of 1987, which also included Cliff Curtis, Tim Balme, Marton Csokas, Hori Ahipene and Sima Urale. 

Her first collection of stories Not Her Real Name, published when she was 26, was awarded the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in the UK and the Montana First Book of Fiction Award in NZ. Picador published her first novel, Leave Before You Go. The New Girl, her second novel, was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in the UK. 

She was the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellow in 2006 and during the Fellowship finished her fourth book, Novel About My Wife which was awarded the Believer Book Award in the US and the Medal for Fiction at the Montana NZ Book Awards. Her most recent novel, The Forrests, published by Bloomsbury in 2012, was long-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013 and a finalist in the NZ Post Book Awards. In 2011 she was made an Arts Laureate by the Arts Foundation of New Zealand. 

For more information or to order a copy of Auckland Theatre Company’s 2015 season brochure, please visit www.atc.co.nz

Dates: 30 April – 23 May, 2015
Venue: Maidment Theatre, Auckland University
Tickets: www.atc.co.nzor (09) 309 0390  


Nora: Laurel Devenie
Theo: Damien Avery
Christine: Nicola Kawana
Gerry: Peter Elliott
Aidan: Paul Glover 
The two children are yet to be announced 

Director: Colin McColl
Set and Lighting Design: Tony Rabbit
Sound Design: John Gibson
Costume Design: Nic Smillie

Theatre ,

Refurbished for the 21st Century

Review by Matt Baker 06th May 2015

Henrik Ibsen may have been aware of the controversy that A Doll’s House would raise when he wrote it, but he certainly didn’t intend the specificity of it to be projected onto its female lead. Regardless, adaptations have continued to miss the collective relevance to its central character’s journey, reappropriating it with connotations to a cause. This, however, is not the case with Emily Perkin’s version and first endeavour as a playwright. Perkins has presented New Zealand audiences with an epitomic adaptation, translating the source material into a quintessential Kiwi story, while maintaining the archetypal themes of Ibsen’s classic play. [More]


Make a comment

Adaptation clever and interesting

Review by Janet McAllister 04th May 2015

Emily Perkins’ A Doll’s House is to Henrik Ibsen’s original what Clueless is to Jane Austen’s Emma: it’s a wonderfully assured, loose adaptation filled with sharp observations about a contemporary tribe. 

Locations aren’t specified in this drawing-room drama but Perkins’ subjects have the Auckland obsession with property and anxiety about precarious success.

The central couple make things hard for themselves: Nora and Theo live off-grid, eschew sugar and have kids (whose presence, both on and offstage, nicely pervades the action). And both spouses have secrets. Convincingly, it’s this stew of tensions that complicates their lives, rather than any one sole factor. [More]


Make a comment

A visceral production that moves us to question

Review by Heidi North 03rd May 2015

Writer Emily Perkin’s has reimagined Ibsen’s classic, A Doll’s House. Perkins is a skilful writer and this, her first play, is a skilful adaptation. It’s no mean feat to truly reimagine a classic without simply modernising it with a glossy façade.  

Ibsen’s A Doll’s House is famous for highlighting the societal roles and expectations that stifle us, and for its feminist (arguably humanist) agenda. This version stays faithful to the original’s structure but goes right to the play’s heart to tease out the themes that most shock us. In Ibsen’s time, it was a woman walking out on her husband; now, it’s a woman walking out on her children.

Motherhood is not simply something that happens to women anymore, it is a choice, and since it is a choice, there’s pressure to be perfect at it: we must not fail at motherhood.  

Directed by Colin McColl, Laurel Devenie’s Nora is a loveable wife, the essence of good cheer and motherhood. More and more frantic as the play progresses, her dance is every bit as revealing of Nora’s true feelings as it would have been in Ibsen’s time. Her performance is strong and true, and when she drops the act in the play’s final moments I truly feel with her. 

Theo [Torvald] (Damien Avery) is more complex than in the original, and his and Nora’s relationship is charmed. Yet still he delivers heavy judgment on her with his unmoveable sense of right and wrong. Judging him is hard in this version though; nothing is that simple here. 

Christine [Kristine Linde] (Nicola Kawana), Aiden [Krogstad] (Paul Glover) and Gerry [Dr Rank] (Peter Elliot) contribute layers of expectations and desire to create the pressure cooker that blows the lid off Theo and Nora’s perfect life together.

I imagine Ibsen would have been flabbergasted by set and lightening designer Tony Rabbit’s pen full of stuffed pandas as the set dressing, but for this production, it works perfectly. As Nora accurately tells Theo in the dénouement, “I’ve turned our lives into a playpen.”  

Perkin’s says, “Ibsen wrote a story with the capacity to ask new questions for new times – our production aims to move the audience to ask those questions.” 

It’s a visceral production. And move us it does. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council