Director and actor Pat Laffan contacted me after I put up my post about A Doll’s House, to tell me about his experience directing the play.
1975 was designated International Women’s Year by the United Nations and, to mark the celebration, the Abbey staged Ibsen’s classic with Sorcha Cusack as Nora.
Pat Laffan remembered that Seamus Kelly ‘had a go at it’ in the Irish Times, so I looked it up in the archive, and indeed he did. Although he praises the direction and cast, Kelly said:
I had forgotten how old hat Nora Helmer’s situation was. […] It doesn’t stand the test of time, but comes up in this production as a quaint revival of an out-of-date period piece. As such, it’s as acceptable as a stuffed bird on the sideboard and people who like stuffed birds are welcome to it.
Cranky old critic.
Laffan didn’t recall, but I discovered, there’s a far more nuanced reading of the production in the Letters page, where Carolyn Swift wrote to the Editor to voice her disagreement with the critic.
I was deeply moved by the play, which seemed to me to be terrifyingly topical. Indeed, afterwards, several women in the audience agreed with my comment that, in the almost one hundred years since the work was written, men’s understanding and treatment of women seemed scarcely to have changed at all.
She astutely explores the reaction of many male audience members to Nora, and calls the production ‘intelligent, thoughtful and sensitive’. She delights in the enragement of Seamus Kelly, seeing it for the lack of comprehension it is.
Surely, Carolyn Swift must be added to the list of women who deserve to be given honorary membership posthumously of #WakingTheFeminists ?