'A Doll’s House': 21st-century adaptations

By Aisling Lally

First performed over a hundred years ago, Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House receives regular revivals and “still feels subversive” (Lucy Brookes, CultureWhisper, 2020). 

Here are five examples of contemporary productions of A Doll’s House performed in the UK to enrich your knowledge of the play’s performance history.


1. 2009: Donmar Warehouse

This contemporary retelling of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, written by Zinnie Harris, was met with mixed reviews. Critics praised Gillian Anderson for "[proving] herself more than capable of the role" (Zoe Craig, Londonist)
. Still, they questioned the credibility of Zinnie Harris’s choice to tweak Ibsen’s text and set the story against the backdrop of British politics in 1909, intending to accentuate a setting in which duty, power, and hypocrisy were rife. Michael Coveney comments: "The play still bristles with hurt, relevance and anger, and didn't really need the political patina."


2. 2012: Young Vic

Critics noted the use of a revolving set with Carrie Cracknell’s A Doll’s House at the Young Vic. Michael Billington commented: “as if to remind us that this is a play about domestic revolution, Ian MacNeil’s design revolves ceaselessly…the endlessly mobile set symbolises the restlessness of Hattie Morahan’s superb Nora”. Moreover, Cracknell’s production emphasised the suffocating constraints of gendered expectations — with the New York Times alluding to Nora Helmer as “a caged wife, desperately spinning her wheel”.


3. 2012: Nora, a short film responding to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House

In this short film, Hattie Morahan, who also played Nora in Carrie Cracknell’s Young Vic production of A Doll’s House, plays the titular role. Nora imagines what a modern-day Nora might look like 130 years after the original publication. 

Nora, directed by Carrie Cracknell, is available to watch here.


4. 2019: Lyric Hammersmith, adapted by Tanika Gupta

In 2019, Tanika Gupta adapted Ibsen’s classic for the Lyric Hammersmith. Directed by Rachel O’Riordan, Gupta’s A Doll’s House is set in Calcutta, 1879, and examines misogyny and power under the lens of British colonialism. 

A Production Education Pack, published by the Lyric Hammersmith, is available here.


5. 2020 and 2022: Young Vic and Royal Exchange

Nora: A Doll’s House, a contemporary retelling of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, is written by Stef Smith and directed by Bryony Shanahan. The adaptation spans three decades (set in 1918, 1968, and 2018) and hones in on the confinements of social conventions for women. It has been praised for its clever contrasting of “worlds of pain” (Holly Williams, the Guardian, 2020) and how it sheds light on the constraints of capitalism for both men and women.



Have you watched any of these adaptations, or do you have a favourite performance of A Doll’s House to share? 

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