Stef Smith takes Ibsen as a fertile starting point for her new version Nora: A Doll’s House at the Young Vic
“Nora, what have you done”
Ibsen wrote A Doll’s House in 1879 but from 1918 to 1968 and then to 2018, stories like Nora’s endure. That’s the thesis of Stef Smith’s Nora: A Doll’s House, a radical new version that splits its narrative voice in three (and everyone knows how good that can be for a play (qv Emilia, Anatomy of a Suicide).
And it’s a smart move in many ways, drawing as much attention to the progression for feminism in the time periods as how little some other things (men?) have changed. Enfranchisement, contraception, gay rights, they all have huge societal impact but when social and class strictures remain in place, what freedom is there really?
Amaka Okafor’s poised 1918 Nora, Natalie Klamar’s too-willing 1960s Nora and Anna Russell-Martin wearied 2018 Nora all iimpress in their own right but also in the speed and efficacy with which they spin and turn to play Christine, Nora’s friend, in another time period. Tom Piper’s design and Lee Curran’s lighting facilitate these lightning quick changes with ease.
By contrast, the men of the story remain constant across the timelines, Luke Norris’ Thomas, Mark Arends’ Nathan and Zephryn Taitte’s Daniel perhaps suggesting that as much of a problem in society is men not changing with the times as much as they need to. Smith perhaps overstates her point in a barely needed epilogue but Elizabeth Freestone’s production is one which lingers long in the mind.