It is interesting to note how every year the Najmuddin Dramatics Society (NDS) of Kinnaird College for Women University, Lahore, manages to find a Vivien Leigh, a Julie Andrews, or a Helene Weigel, not to forget a Richard Burbage, from among the college students, for its annual plays. This year, again, the society found talent, for an adaptation of the 19th century Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s best known work, ‘A Doll’s House,’ that shone bright.
The play, which was staged recently for four consecutive nights at Hladia Hall, discusses the life of a married woman, Nora Helmer, and her sense of self-fulfillment in a patriarchal society — an issue that Ibsen discussed in 1879 but which resonates even more strongly with our present-day society. If a woman is happily married with a loving husband, in a house full of maids and butlers, does it certify that she is content or has attained self-fulfillment? Could there still be a reason or a justification for her emotional breakdown? What could be the catalyst to her angst? Seeing a dear old friend well settled in her life, or an outburst from a husband who has more or less cared for her, not really ‘loved’ her, and will continue on as such?
Sohaira Khalid, a senior student of English Literature, brings Nora to life, literally, with her flawless performance. Worth a mention is her act in the final scene, when her voice broke down while singing, ‘A dream is a wish your heart makes’; her eyes twinkling with tears.
Aqsa Asif made a delightful Torvald Helmer, a banker whose much-professed love for his wife is actually killing her. She acquitted herself ably, adopting the manly gestures spot-on. Her flaming red hair styled into short-length supported her look.
Hadiya Hassan Sheikh, as Kristine Linde, Nora’s old friend and a widow, was also impressive. Her expressions of anxiety and gaiety were equally well-executed.
One thing that made this production stand out was the dance sequence, choreographed by Hajra Zahid Khan and Fatima Qamar. The four couples danced, all dressed up in tuxedoes and flowing gowns, adding zing and pep to the show.
Costumes were all on-point. Even the housemaid, played by Aayat Hassan, had the most adorable apron, a waist tie, a bow on her lower back, and a laced headpiece.
The set was designed by the Fine Arts Department instructor, Miss Rebecca, and painted by a junior student of literature and her creative team. Eventually, it looked like the perfect doll’s house from the Victorian era.
Live singing by Keziah Austin, who played the nanny, and Sohaira Khalid, also included the folk song, Lavender’s Blue Dilly Dilly. Not a note was off tune.
The courtroom scene seemed a tad prolonged. But overall, it was well-executed. At the end of each performance, Mariyam Yousaf Sheikh, the president of the NDS, would ask the audience whether they still waited for miracles to happen, in the light of Nora’s journey.
Last but not the least, mention is due to Ms Perin Boga who lent a certain freshness to the production.