Helmer Hardcore – A Doll’s House 2
Jakob Weis (2007)
Translated by Paul Russell Garrett
Helmer Hardcore tackles head-on the issue that has come to define Danish playwright Jakob Weis’ oeuvre: the re-negotiation of masculinity for our times. Like his 19th-century namesake, Helmer worries about his authority as bank manager, and cannot even begin to comprehend why his wife feels unfulfilled. Even his voice echoes that of Ibsen’s Torvald Helmer, thanks to translator Paul Russell Garrett’s deft work on the language of both plays for this ambitious project by [Foreign Affairs]. But Jakob Weis’ all-too-contemporary Helmer knows about organic skincare, lusts after his au pair, is as racist as he is vulgar, and shaves his pubic hair like the porn stars he watches on DVD. Setting the play entirely in a ‘lifestyle’ bathroom like the original Danish production, Trine Garrett’s ingenious decision to stage Helmer Hardcore in a Haggerston basement renders the text’s dark undercurrent literal by placing actors and audience in the cellar which Helmer is having excavated. Trapped in the lavatory with Helmer and his un-dead doctor friend, we are privy to delicious moments of perfectly-pitched comedy, but ultimately must confront a man stripped naked—literally and metaphorically—by his rage at his wife’s abandonment of him and their children.
Senior Lecturer in Scandinavian Film
Seeing Jakob Weis’ critically acclaimed play performed in English was a thought-provoking and very promising experience. It proved that well-translated Danish drama works perfectly well in a British context.
Kåre Odgaard Gade
This was a modern-day imagining of the aftermath of the events in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and is being performed alongside it as a kind of double bill. Specifically, it revolves around what happens to Torvald Helmer, the husband of Nora after she walks out on him and her family. Once again the set is very minimalist black with white highlighted objects. I found the play very thought provoking and was impressed by the character development that Torvald goes through. He reaches something of an epiphany before the climactic tragic ending. Will Timbers is excellent as Torvald in a very demanding role as he becomes a much more multi-dimensional character from the rather deliberately two dimensional one in A Doll’s House. Polly Attala is similarly almost unrecognisable as a femme fatale Kristine in contast to the meek creature she was the first play. Two new characters are introduced; Krzysia Balinska is very funny as the petulant and flirtatious au pair, Svetlana; and Hugo Trebels is Kristine’s new lover, Mr Chinaman, who may also have been Nora’s financier. Nora and Krogstadt are alluded to but neither appear in this play. Again, there was a nice design touch with one of Torvald’s children being played by a life size puppet and a remote controlled toy car representing the joie de vivre of childhood. This is a very wordy and esoteric play which really questions the place of the modern man in contemporary society.
Audience Club Member