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The Dolls House – Playhouse Theatre Cheltenham REVIEW

A gorgeous auditorium, proscenium arch stage, quaint little theatre. For my first time at the Playhouse, my expectations were high.

Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

I didn’t get the feeling I usually get when I watch a show, I wasn’t whisked back in time into their world. I didn’t want to chat to the protagonist or shout at the villain. I remained sat in my seat, pen in hand, zoning out, staring at the back of someone’s head. I was underwhelmed and frankly, bored. Normally, I am easily sucked into a story, but this time I was detached and I watched instead of felt, observed instead of experienced.

Almost all of the cast were not believable in their roles. The actors recited their lines and robotically moved about the stage purely because it was in the script. The lack of creative interpretation was exposed from start to finish as words replaced acting, for example when Torvald receives an important letter. “I must read it” followed by “I must read more” I wanted him to show he was desperate to read the letter rather than explicitly telling the audience. Torvald Helmer lacked in physicality and facial expressions. When I closed my eyes I enjoyed his performance but his visual portrayal of the character was awkward and clunky.

For me, Dr. Rank stood out as the strongest character within the play, his final scene was by far my favourite and I hung on each word he said. Other than this there was no connection between the actors and characters and therefore there was no connection between the audience and the play. The characters were underdeveloped and somewhat 2D cutting off the chance for you to relate, sympathise and engage with what was going on before you.

There was hardly any scene or lighting changes, barely any sound and very few props, allowing for a flatter play to be even flatter. The window at the back of the stage allowed light to subtly portray the passing of time, this was needed due to a lack of costume and set changes.

People actually got up and left the performance after experiencing just 20 minutes, they abandoned their £7.50 seats and made a swift exit. Understandable having paid for a semi professional performance and receiving a frustratingly low standard.

There were occasional humorous moments which made me politely titter, but sadly some of these were due to fumbles and mistakes which added to the slightly unpolished production.

The story in itself is a fantastic play, originally performed in 1879, and still loved to this day. There is real potential to have complex relationships and captivating characters, but in this particular production by the Playhouse company I felt like the story was the main thing that kept the show afloat. As a man from the row behind me said “There is nothing worse that a bad production of a good play.”

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