IIt is often said that the slamming of Nora’s door as she leaves her husband and children at the end of A doll’s house has resonated over the centuries. In Stef Smith’s clever new take of Ibsen’s 1879 play, his story certainly resonates: Smith reimagines Nora in 1918, 1968, and 2018. The three periods overlap in his complex spectacle, three Noras circling each other, while their protective husbands are played by an actor (heroically changing Luke Norris).
Elizabeth Freestone’s production, which takes place on an almost naked stage with three door frames disturbingly open, is choreographed like clockwork. If the emotional blow is a little blunt by being divided between three stories, they also win by poignant by their juxtaposition. And the Nora are well defined: Amaka Okafor has a calm, determined grace like the underrated Nora of 1918; Natalie Klamar floats in voice and gesture as the nervous and heartbreaking embodiment of 1968; while Anna Russell-Martin uses mirth (and alcohol) to cover up her raw despair as our contemporary.
Nora was first seen at the Citizens Theater in Glasgow, one of Ibsen’s many rewritings in 2019. Although a part of me wishes Smith would feel able to write a new play rather than tighten his work to fit Ibsen’s tightly constructed plot, she finds creative and persuasive solutions.
The debt that intelligently – and depressingly easily – puts Nora in hot water comes to light on credit cards and payday loans. Smith generously points out the pressure that scarcity under capitalism puts on the lives of men and women. And if the last difficult moments seem crushed – making clear where they might suggest – there is something satisfying about seeing the different destinies of these three women, from hope to dark.