by Ali Yalgin

We had a first run-through yesterday, which went quite well. Before the run-through, Ellen and I had a quick chat about my character, Krogstad. I have usually played creepy and slightly crazy characters at Duke, which were fun to play but not so deep. Initially I was quite worried about playing Krogstad, in that I didn’t want to play yet another creepy cuckoo antagonist. I have a tendency to over-characterize my roles, which makes both me and the audience tired after some point, and I have long wanted to break that habit. Krogstad is not a villain, and he is not a caricature. He is not strange, he is just a stranger to Nora and Torvald’s world. Since the couple’s world is not quite an honest one, Krogstad is not creepy; he just does not belong there, and he makes it tremble. That is why I have been having such a hard time playing the second and the third acts. His transformation is enormous, and requires a lot of attention, since it does not happen all at once. If Krogstad were a completely unacceptable man, would Kristine want to be with him? He wants to get rid of tags such as “scurrilous,” or “man of the gutter press,” or “scandal mongerer,” he wants to get out of the puddle of slime he’s been pushed in. In a way, he is like Nora, since the one thing he once did has destroyed his reputation, just like Nora who we can see fluttering on stage. What caused him to forge a signature? Ibsen does not tell us, so he might have had selfish motives, for he is a really ambitious man. But, it might have also been one of his naive moments. Regardless, the society, once identified him as “the other,” has never indulged him. People hit his head even harder to make him sink, and he can’t find a way out of the slime he swims in.

I guess it is important for me to remember that he really wants to save himself in other people’s eyes, and mostly in Kristine’s. Therefore, he wouldn’t want to cause Nora’s death. In a way, he shakes Nora’s world, but this helps Nora to wake up. He is not however an angel. Although he tries to pull himself out of the slime, he has been involved with a lot of dirty business, which is where my ‘centipede’ gesture is coming from. He has competed against Torvald ever since they were students together, and Torvald won, with a beautiful wife, three children and now a respectable position at the bank. Krogstad wants all that to be his, he is envious. He wants to rise, and now he has the opportunity to use Torvald as a step, and does not really care if Torvald would be smashed if he stepped up on him.That is when I play Krogstad I like him to touch the furniture in Helmers’ house, because he wants to have them, as he wants to have that ‘happy house’ to himself. Indeed, he is surprised when in the second act when he says to Nora ‘Your husband loves you so little? He knows how I can expose you, and yet he dares to…’ Having gone through such an unhappy relationship, Krogstad realizes that Helmer’s love for Nora is extremely shallow before Nora herself does. Krogstad is scary to Nora not only because he blackmails her, but because he constantly reminds her that her future could very easily look like his present. Yet he is kind enough not to turn this into a public scandal, or perhaps he just does not care to hurt Nora, it is Torvald he wants to surpass.

The important turning point to him is in the third act, where he lets go of his ambition. Life has treated him badly, and he is bitter about it, but a new life starts as soon as Kristine offers to be with him. He realizes that life doesn’t have to be that complicated anymore, that he doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore, because she offers her a hand out of the slime. He does not care to have a better position in the bank, since he says he will demand his letter back. Kristine doesn’t let him do so for Nora’s sake, but he sends a letter saying that everything can be forgotten, and therefore he doesn’t ask Torvald to give him a leg up anymore. As soon as Kristine leaves the doll house, they start their journey together.

1 Comment

  • Jules Odendahl-James says:


    I love the way you’ve parsed out Krogstad’s journey here. I’m actually watching you in Act 1 during a run-through right now. You’ve just finished your second scene with Nora and I was struck by your touching of the furniture. This was before I’d even noticed what you’d written about his desire to possess these things. Your whispers are a tad hard to hear and then when you explode at times the force of the volume sometimes makes you hard to hear, clearly, at that end of the spectrum. It’s difficult because your scene fills in expository blanks that we, the audience, need to learn, but I know you and Jenny are also working with modulating the frantic energy that is driving both characters at that time in the Act. You laughed when she called you a bad lawyer and it made sense, but I remember being so taken by the laugh Krogstad lets loose with in that moment with Kristine in Act 3. I wondered whether you save any laughter until then. I’m not trying to constrain your choices it’s just something that crossed my mind as I watched tonight.

    I love your realization that Krogstad might realize the dysfunction in Nora & Torvald’s marriage before Nora does. I think that gives you a whole different angle on the scene in Act 2, which carries over the panicked energy from Act 1 but with variation, new information and, as you’ve said here, new realizations on Krogstad’s part.

    It’s a joy to realize that I’ve gotten to see you perform each year you’ve been at Duke. And I’ve seen you revel and excel with “creepy cuckoo antagonists” and work with roles that give you a different kind of “meat” to chew on. As I said at the start of these comments, you’ve given Krogstad a clear and full inner life. Sure he’s Nora’s foil, but one that has his own through-line, his own objectives that the audience needs to care about and understand. To use Linde’s words from Act 3, you’ve built that “solid ground”. Now walk. : )