Following the adaptation of A Doll’s House set in India last year, we are now in three time periods in the UK as three Noras are depicted in 1918, 1968 and 2018.
Stef Smith’s clever adaptation of Ibsen makes Dr Rank into friend “Daniel”, the would-be blackmailer Krogstad into “Nathan” and Nora’s schoolfriend Mrs Linde into “Christine”. Husband Torvald becomes Thomas: a traditionalist in 1918 and a domestic abuser by the present day.
With interlocking storylines, repeated and echoed phrases, and some quick changes (the three actors playing the Noras also play the Christines), we follow the story of Nora Helmer across the ages.
Her loan of the years where the Great War has just ended and women have the vote becomes a credit card in the permissive 60s, and a payday loan in 2018.
Although all three Noras dress in earth-coloured clothes, they hint at the time period in which they live, and their guilty pleasures are also contemporary: in 1918 a small bag of sugar, in 1968 a “mother’s little helper”, in 2018 a bottle of booze.
Luke Norris, as all three of the husbands, is required to change accent and demeanour quickly, mid-scene, and he pulls this off with ease.
The Noras are sharply defined – in 1918 (Amaka Okafor) she’s quietly confident but subservient; in 1968 (Natalie Klamar) she’s nervous and unsure, rejecting her husband’s sexual bullying; in 2018 (Anna Russell-Martin) she’s resigned and always slightly tipsy.
I felt the character of Daniel was lost if you didn’t know the Ibsen original, regardless of the lengthy scene where he and Nora are alone. Christine and Nathan translate well to other time periods, and Elizabeth Freestone’s direction handles the disparate story threads well.
The set design (by Tom Piper) with the frozen river behind and three doors suggesting an escape for each Nora works best from the seats directly facing the stage, less so for those on either side of the horseshoe seating, but the blocking is well thought out for all viewing angles and the lighting design (by Lee Curran) amply suggests a change of time and focus.
Nora: A Doll’s House continues at the Young Vic until 21 March. Images by Marc Brenner
LouReviews purchased a ticket to see Nora: A Doll’s House.