How sound was used in Nora: A Doll’s House

We caught up with Michael John McCarthy, our composer and sound designer for Nora: A Doll's House who explained how sound was used to emphasise moments which were particularly important in the play and related to its main themes and issues.

Both the sound and the music were created by MJ in the rehearsal room and were designed to complement the emotional journey of the play. It also helped us tell the story: the Noras have a chord that is played when the play fractures into their monologues and poetic sections. The sound is also used to mark the shifts in time: we found a combination of strong physicality from the actors, a lighting shift, and a sound moment an effective and precise way of jumping between 1918, 1968, and 2018 in a matter of seconds.  We used some of MJ's original music in our trailer for the play.

Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

MJ explained "There's an extent to which the use of sound in Nora is all built around one moment of silence. Even as the audience enters the auditorium before the show begins, there is a very low level room-tone (a bit like the sound of a very quiet air conditioning system) playing through the speakers. It's barely perceptible but you'd notice the difference if it was switched off. Throughout the production various layers of music and sound come and go, always with an atmospheric layer in the background, leading up to the moment where Thomas leaves the room after almost hitting Nora. It was the director's wish, from our very first conversation, that this moment where each Nora realises that she is about to leave her home and family, would be the first and only moment of silence in the entire production. I don't know if many or any audience members are aware of this silence, but my hope is that they feel the difference it makes, even if they couldn't say exactly what has changed."