Greg Stone tells us what it means to own up to the words of a script.
Note: the following interview contains spoilers.
What do you think the driving force behind your character is?
At the beginning of the play, he’s spent the last fifteen years trying to cope with this terrible loss in his life. He’s been trying to raise his children, do his job, and bury a lot of the pain that he has. He hasn’t even told people that Nora has left him, he’s just left it to people to speculate what’s happened. I don’t think Nora is even mentioned in the house anymore. I think his driving force is just to live, and to get by. However, his driving force changes when Nora turns up at the front door. I’m in the process of finding out what that is now, but I think his driving force from there as the play goes on is to show Nora that he has changed. He is a different person, he has learnt, and he is a good guy. When he reads Nora’s book, he doesn’t want what’s described there to be his legacy. He wants to be a better man, and to be seen as a better man. He even says that: ‘I’m just trying to be a good guy here.’
How do you inhabit your character? Do they have specific gestures, movements, facial expressions?
At the start, we see Torvald “the banker”. He’s different from the original A Doll’s House: he’s older, he’s damaged by fifteen years of pain, but he’s still quite bound. He’s in terrible shock when he sees Nora. He’d imagined what it would be like, but he didn’t expect it. There are two scenes with Torvald, and he’s different in each scene. In the first scene, he’s very rigid and by the end of it he’s still angry and refusing to give Nora the divorce. But a shift happens to him offstage, and by the second scene he comes back quite a different man as he speaks his truth.
How does your character grow during the course of the play?
At first, Torvald doesn’t want to give Nora the divorce because he’s so bitter and angry. He wants Nora to see what she’s done to him and his children. But after he reads her book, he realises that he doesn’t want to be remembered as that man. He grows, he’s learnt a lot from Nora leaving him. He comes to some kind of understanding about what the marriage was. He says things like, ‘maybe I would like what you really are,’ to Nora. He finds another side of himself, and he also finds a fighter within him. He fights the clerk in the clerk’s office when he asks for the divorce. He’s prepared to let everything go, to expose the lies he’s been perpetuating all these years. He owns up to it and says he’ll face the consequences. I think there’s a stripping down of him by the end of the play, so there’s something a bit more real about him. At the moment I’m rehearsing him so at the beginning you see the pomposity of the old Torvald from A Doll’s House, but as the play goes on he becomes a bit looser. By the end we see his waistcoat open, his shirt open, and blood on his face.
What is A Doll’s House, Part 2 about in your own words?
Everyone in the play makes assumptions about how things are, even Nora arrives with assumptions. What’s beautiful about the play is that it’s four perspectives. It’s not just Nora’s perspective, it’s also Torvald’s, Anne Marie’s, and Emmy’s. The genius of the play is that all of those points of view are valid.
Hnath tells us where the focus is with the titles. In some ways it doesn’t feel like a play, at times it feels like a forum – he even says that – and it feels like a debate. What makes it different from other plays is that it’s not a narrative where the characters are on a journey, instead they’re thrown together and they don’t know what’s going to happen or what will be said. It’s so beautifully crafted that it feels improvised.
How would you describe the actor-audience relationship in this production?
We’re in Week 3 of rehearsals now, so I can only imagine at this stage because we haven’t had an audience yet. I have a feeling that there’s going to be a lot of humour, lots of laughter of recognition of these characters for audience who know the original. There’s a heightened realism to the way that the play is written, it’s not written naturalistically, and interestingly I think the U.S. production was played very much like a sitcom. We’re not going down that particular path, but there will still be a lot of humour. I think the audience are going to go with one character for a while, and then switch teams and go with another character. There will be shifting allegiances, and I think we will hear that in the audience.
Do you have a favourite line from Hnath’s script? It mightn’t be your own.
‘You say you’ve become so honest.
So be honest with me:
I’m talking about two people,
spending time together,
how to be around each other.’
I think that’s the major theme in the play for me at the moment: human interaction. Whether that’s marriage, what we do in life, friendships or within a family. That’s Torvald’s struggle.
A Dolls House, Part 2 plays at Southbank Theatre from 11 August 2018.