A tweak here, a few lines added there, a shift of location. It is fascinating how a well-known play can be changed with minimal intervention. Tanika Gupta does exactly that with her adaptation of A Doll’s House, first seen at the Lyric last year, which relocates the play to Calcutta in 1879, two years after Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India. Nora becomes Niru (Anjana Vasan), married to the much older Tom (Elliot Cowan) a colonial bureaucrat who calls her his “little Indian princess” when he is delighted by her and “a savage heathen” when he’s not. Suddenly, a play about the subjugation of women also becomes one about colonialism and the way paternalism and patriarchy were used to oppress almost 300 million people. Great stuff.
Calcutta. 1879. Niru, is a young Bengali woman in a mixed-race marriage with an English colonial bureaucrat – Tom. Tom loves Niru, exoticising her as a frivolous plaything to be admired and kept. But Niru has a long-kept secret. And just as she thinks she is almost free of it, it threatens to bring her life crashing down around her. Tanika Gupta reimagines Ibsen’s classic play of gender politics through the lens of British colonialism, offering a bold, female perspective exploring themes of ownership and race. A Doll’s House opened at the Lyric in September 2019, the production was filmed at the end of the run and will be available for one day only from 2.30pm until midnight on Wednesday 20 May on the Lyric’s YouTube channel. The screening is free with the Lyric asking for those who can to donate to the Lyric Recovery Fund to support the theatre during its period of closure due to Covid-19.