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Nora: A Doll's House (Young Vic Theatre)

You’ve lies in the whites of your eyes, Nora. What have you done…?’

Nora is the perfect wife and mother. She is dutiful, beautiful and everything is always in its right place. But when a secret from her past comes back to haunt her, her life rapidly unravels. Over the course of three days, Nora must fight to protect herself and her family or risk losing everything.

Ibsen’s brutal portrayal of womanhood caused outrage when it was first performed in 1879. Originally produced at Citizens Theatre, this bold new production directed by Elizabeth Freestone and directed by one of Scotland’s most exciting playwrights. Stef Smith, reframes the drama in three different time periods. The fight for women’s suffrage, the swinging sixties and modern day intertwine in this urgent, poetic play that asks how far have we really come in the past 100 years?

★★★ Londonist, Jonathan Marshall:

'Natalie Klamar as 1968 Nora exudes the bubbly nervousness that only a person on the very edge is capable of. Anna Russell-Martin captures the confidence 2018 Nora has obtained in feeling she has a voice, although remains a victim of both her husband and the social climate. Luke Norris brings something new with each incarnation of Thomas, switching between eras in a blink without missing a beat. [...] Ibsen’s spirit is very much still alive here, but there is also another exciting voice in the room.'

★★★ The Observer, Holly Williams:

'Smith reimagines Nora in 1918, in 1968, and in 2018. The three time periods overlap in her intricately constructed show, three Noras circling each other, while their patronising husbands are played by one actor (Luke Norris switching heroically).

Elizabeth Freestone’s production, set on an almost bare stage with three door frames standing ominously open, is choreographed like clockwork. If the emotional blow is a little dulled by being shared between three stories, they also gain poignancy by their juxtaposition. And the Noras are well-defined: Amaka Okafor has calm, determined grace as the underestimated 1918 Nora; Natalie Klamar flutters in voice and gesture as the nervy, pill-popping 1968 incarnation; while Anna Russell-Martin uses cheerfulness (and booze) to cover her raw desperation as our contemporary.

Nora was first seen at Glasgow’s Citizens theatre, one of a slew of Ibsen rewrites in 2019. While part of me wishes Smith felt able to write a new play rather than torquing her work to fit Ibsen’s tightly constructed plot, she does find creative, persuasive solutions.

The debt that gets Nora in hot water cleverly – and depressingly easily – updates to credit cards and payday loans. Smith generously underlines the pressure that scarcity under capitalism places on the lives of both men and women. And if the final embattled moments feel overwritten – spelling out where they could suggest – there is something satisfying about seeing these three women’s different fates, from the hopeful to the bleak.'

★★★, Ava Wong Davies:

'The three Noras feel like three distinct panes in a single stained-glass window. 1918's, played by Amaka Okafor, has a steely dignity, 1968's, played by Natalie Klamar, is tremulous and flighty, and 2018's is played by Anna Russell-Martin with wiry tenacity. While the writing of the 1918 and 1968 Noras can feel a touch over-emphatic (declarative statements about women's suffrage and the advent of contraception feel more distracting than helpful), it is the 2018 strand which stuns. Russell-Martin scalds the ground she walks on – a Nora beset and run ragged by constant financial precarity and with a husband who tips the line from patronisingly overbearing into flat-out abusive. Here lies Smith's trump card – a precise excavation of the ways in which patriarchy and capitalism intersect.'

The Arts Desk, Heather Neill, 'Ibsen diced, sliced and reinvented with poetic precision':

'Smith's three Noras are sometimes interchangeable, sometimes very much of their time. They occasionally speak in chorus or use the third person to describe their/her predicament, but they are also differentiated, by both class and demeanour. Anna Russell-Martin is a tough, hard-talking contemporary Scot, Natalie Klamar is an Estuary Sixties woman hesitantly discovering new sexual possibilities, while Amaka Okafor (pictured right) has an elegant, middle-class dignity as the 1918 Nora. Each has a secret means of escape from the day-to-day: sugar for the earliest Nora; pills, "mother's little helpers", in the Sixties, and alcohol in 2018. Luke Norris, Thomas in every case, slips into altered speech and posture as necessary. All three Noras also play three Christines. The whole thing – a tense hour and 45 minutes – is beautifully controlled and choreographed in Elizabeth Freestone's sympathetic direction.'

★★★ Financial Times:
'In place of Ibsen’s solitary heroine, we have three Noras, each at a key staging point in the journey towards female equality: 1918, 1968 and 2018. The story rolls forward on its usual path, but the three women share it, passing it around, in Elizabeth Freestone’s deftly orchestrated production, as if in musical canon. It’s an intelligent, probing approach, mulling on the question of what progress has really been made. Nora’s debt shifts with the timeframe — a loan agreement, a credit card, a payday loan — as do her mannerisms (Amaka Okafor, calm and dignified; Natalie Klamar, anxious and twitchy; Anna Russell-Martin, gutsy and funny); but the upshot remains the same. Driven to desperate measures by poverty, she is devastated by her husband’s brutal response to her confession.'


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Photograph: Marc Brenner

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