Friday, February 27, 2009

Doll's House

It's not that I'm scared of dwarves. It's just that I'm not used to seeing them naked, inches from my face. The crowd of schoolkids behind me are laughing and whooping as if they're at the rollar-derby. But tonight it's only my prim English sensibilities that are getting a bashing.

We've been invited to the closing night of the show at St Anne's Warehouse - part of the Bladerunner-cityscapes Down Under Manhattan Bridge (DUMBO to its friends). They weren't kidding about the Warehouse part. The lobby feels as big as an aircraft hanger, dwarfing even the regular-sized people. It's a fitting introduction for what's to come.

At one point in the middle of the play Torvald screams at Nora: "Small, do you think I'm small?" The company took that one line and spun out a nightmarish melodrama where two-foot men enact their dominace over a simpering range of six-foot women. Five years and half the world later, this is the final night of chirping and humping and ripping the hair off dolls. That's a hell of a long run. I don't know quite whether that's testimony to Ibsen's immortal words, or to the tenacity with which people cling to the few remaining tenants of the freakshow. It's dangerous to laugh at most people - Jews, Blacks, Women, Muslims, Gays - but, for the moment at least, dwarves still seem fair game.

The most disturbing thing about the show only happens on our walk home. The lights of Manhattan are to the right of us, the brownstones of chi-chi Brooklyn Heights to our left.
"I didn't realise about the kid til halfway through." Chris admits.
"What about the kid?" Even from the second row, I tend to miss stuff.
"Y'know, that they weren't a kid. It was an old dwarf woman. I think."
"Are you sure? Shit. I thought it was just a really ugly little girl."

So there you have it Doctor Freud: all sorts of unheimlich for you.

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