“And it’s them, the children, who always suffer most, Nora.”
In 1981, filmmaker Ingmar Bergman radically recut Henrik Ibsen’s classic play A Doll’s House to create his adaptation Nora. Among other alterations, Bergman virtually eliminated the three young children of Nora and Torvald Helmer, the couple around which the plot of Ibsen’s play turns. The children are only seen a couple of times in Ibsen’s original script, but their presence is crucial. Without Ivar, Emmy, and Bob around, the father and mother simply became husband and wife. The original concept of Nora simplifies the Helmers’ battle to find the truth in their marriage—by turning the familial struggle into only a marital one.
The more time I spent with the play, the more impossible it felt to stage this play truthfully without the presence of a child figure. Inspired by that, I started to consider the show from the perspective of Emmy, the six-year-old daughter of Nora and Torvald who appears briefly in Ibsen’s original. Bergman eventually thought so too; when he re-staged A Doll’s House in 1989, he added in a young girl, ‘Hilde,’ as a representation of the Helmers’ children. The presence of Emmy helped guide me, the actors, the designers, and our audience to a deeper understanding of the show. While Emmy may still suffer the consequences of her parents’ actions, she was able to be seen and heard on her own terms—the same rights for which her mother is so desperately fighting.
Photo credits: Robert Rogers (Baylor Photography) and Jared Tseng (Jared Tseng Photography).