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Reflection And Comparison Of Plays An Ideal Husband By Dean Bryant And A Doll’s House: Part 2 By Sarah Goodes

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The two Melbourne Theatre Company pieces of work I will discuss include An Ideal Husband directed by Dean Bryant and A Doll’s House: Part 2 directed by Sarah Goodes. I attended An Ideal Husband in the Playhouse. This performance of Oscar Wilde’s play showcased his witty writing and I found it very enjoyable. The beautiful set and costumes, along with the talented director and actors linked together to produce a great piece of theatre. However, after viewing A Doll’s House: Part 2 at The Sumner I left feeling a bit confused whether or not I liked the performance. This adaptation of Lucas Hnath’s play was well made and exoculated. Although, I felt like something else was needed to enhance the performance. I walked out feeling a bit underwhelmed. I found these plays to be very different stylistically, whilst still having similar themes embedded in the story.

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Oscar Wilde’s 123-year-old play of An Ideal Husband revolves around the morals of an upper-class society of London in 1895. This comedy explores how the character uses blackmail and political corruption to get their way. While the main underlying themes involve how people are in their private and public lives. Although it is an old play written over 100 years ago, a lot of the themes and messages embedded in this piece of work is still very relevant to today.

The main thing that stood out to me was the beautiful and detailed images the costumes and set created simultaneously. The way Dale Ferguson used these elements to tell help tell the story of the characters’ lives enhance the story. Mrs Cheveley glamourous black velvet dress with white flowers stood out. This contributed to her cunning personality. Whereas, Lady Markby wearing brighter and more vibrant colours highlighted her comical role within the story. Ferguson design of the backdrops allowed the play to move from place to place seamlessly throughout the piece. They also assisted in shifting the mode of the scene by the colour palettes that were used.

Mathew Frank’s composition added more to the world of the play. The sound design assisted in maintaining the atmosphere during the transition of scenes and the multiple tableaux. Dean Bryant’s interpretation of this play allowed the audience to enjoy this production with ease. I really liked the way Bryant and the cast were able to clearly able to showcase the various roles the character held within society. It was made clear of each of the characters’ lives and their lives before the play started. Whilst, these characters all have their problems within the play, the comedy Bryant achieved in this piece was still present. The actors’ performances complimented each other. From Gina Riley’s witty portrayal of Lady Markby to Christie Whelan Browne’s multi-layered performance of Mrs Cheveley. Simone Gleeson captured Sir Robert Chiltern’s inner thoughts of the emotional turmoil he faced. Zindzi Okennyo interpretation of Lady Chiltern was another standout performance for me. The maturity and elegance she brought to this character added another layer to the play.

Overall, I really enjoyed this work and thought all the elements came together beautifully to create the world of the play beautifully.

A Doll’s House: Part 2 follows after the story of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. At the end of this play, Nora Helmer has left her house leaving behind her marriage, daughter and her fortunate life. Lucas Hnath continues this story fifteen years after this event when Nora returns and brings up old memories. She is now a woman who is a successful writer but finds her future being held in her husband’s hands even after leaving him years ago. Tracy Grant Lord designs created a space that allowed the story and performers of the actors, to be the main component of the performance. The simplistic set design allowed there to be a large open performance space so that the actors could move freely and easily throughout the performance space. I found the light blue walls to be a bit jarring in appearance with the contrasting thin stripes. However, the meaning behind the vertical lines, the, representing the bars of a jail cell. This enforced the idea of Nora being trapped within her old life and not being able to move on with her life. Although, I thought the use of the door was a good metaphorical contribution to the set or the outside world being on the other side. Which was also well incorporated within the blocking. I believe her costume design to be much more visually pleasing.

The colour palette complemented the colours in the set well whilst they were still relevant to the era of the play. The way the characters interact with the costumes played a part to the storyline made it much more interesting. For example, as Nora removed items of clothing through the piece I found to be symbolic of her opening up to in her past life and becoming more vulnerable and exposed to criticism. The director Sarah Goodes use of the performance space was good and assisted each of the actors to develop their characters to add more depth to the piece. The physicality of each of the characters helped with the individuality of each role. Such as Emmy’s (Zoe Terakes) tall stiff stance and Nora’s (Marta Dusseldorp) wide lung. Deidre Rubenstein portrayal of Anne Marie was really nice. She played the middle person of the story well and she was also the representation of the middle-class society. This performance was good, however, I did leave this performance unsure of what to think of the piece as a full. When first thinking about these two plays I thought that there were very different. However, when putting them side by side I am now able to see that they also have some concepts in common. It was easy to find a few differences between these two plays. Obviously, the different styles of comedy. Comedy versus a drama. The mood and atmosphere of the pieces were different as a result of this.

An Ideal Husband had a much more welcoming and light-hearted feeling, whereas, A Doll’s House: Part 2 was much more serious and a sombre kind of mood. The performances from the actor’s also had a different quality to it because of the difference in style. The performers appealing for comical effect used big and exaggerated gestures. Whilst, a more realistic approach was taken to achieve a dramatic effect within the audience. The type of venue also contributed to the connection the audience had to the performers. For example, since An Ideal Husband was performed in the Playhouse, which has a very large audience space. Some audience members may not have felt as connected with the performers if they were seated far away from the stage. Whereas, A Doll’s House: Part 2 was performed in The Sumner. This space is much smaller compare to the Playhouse. As a result, the audience members had the opportunity to feel much more connected with the piece.

They also had some similar elements. One component that stood out to me was strong, dominating female characters. These women drove the storyline, and in both plays, they took ownership of their own lives and didn’t let men tell control their future. Although, this was not common of the era’s these plays are set in. A Prominent theme that ran throughout both was the role and position women had in society. These women didn’t allow society to determine where they stood in the society. Looking at the design aspect, they both choose to have a set the allowed there to be a large open performance space in the middle of the stage. This vast performance space allowed the performers to walk around it more. Also, by experimenting with the positioning of the characters on stage and how it may have symbolised where they may have stood within society.

Both of these pieces delivered a great piece of work but overall, I found An Ideal Husband much more enjoyable and entertaining compared to A Doll’s House: Part 2. They both tackled topics that are still relevant to today, but I wonder if the approach of this piece was the best way to tell the story.

18 March 2020

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