Skip to content

Lyric life

Writer Tanika Gupta & Director Rachel O’Riordan on A Doll’s House

The first show of our 2019/2020 season is a reimagining of Ibsen’s classic play. Adapted by Tanika Gupta and directed by Rachel O’Riordan, the play is set in Calcutta, with Niru (Nora in the original) played by Anjana Vasan (Summer and Smoke).

Rachel told us:

“My first play as director is a bold new version of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House by the award-winning West-London born Tanika Gupta. Tanika sets the play in Calcutta, 1879, using the themes of the play to explore British colonialism, in a radical reframing of this classic text. Playing the lead role of Niru, Nora in the original, will be Anjana Vasan, who was compelling in Summer and Smoke. I’m really looking forward to working with her, Tanika, and designer Lily Arnold, to bring a new perspective to this iconic play. An element of my vision for the Lyric is rooted in reimagining classic texts; putting the interpretation of them in the hands of artists (writers and directors) whose voice brings new perspective.”

Tanika tells us more about her play:

“I have long admired the play A Doll’s House by Ibsen for its powerful portrait of how a young woman – Nora – breaks free from the shackles of a patriarchal marriage. Transposing the setting to Calcutta in 1879 (the year of the play’s first performance), opens the door to exploring additional power dynamics. Two years after Queen Victoria was declared Empress of India and in the midst of massive expansion of the British Empire across the world, I wanted to pose the question – what happened to the women of India who were married to Englishmen? Nora is now a young Bengali woman in a mixed marriage with an English colonial administrator who worships and exoticises her. The wider environment and the central relationship are thus bound up with colonial attitudes to race, sitting alongside and interwoven with patriarchy. This moves it beyond being simply an ‘all Asian’ Doll’s House, enabling an analysis of different forms of subjugation and servitude. Nora breaking free of her shackles is thus all the more poignant at the end of the play.”