A woman walks into a theatre, discovers she has an aisle seat, almost spills wine and sits down to watch Nora, a new version of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House The original (which this woman has never seen performed) caused outrage when it was first staged in the late 1800s for questioning the institution of marriage and specifically the role of women. As written by Stef Smith, Nora takes this and runs, it runs far and wide drilling into how the rights and roles of women have changed, or not, over the course of the century.
Three women on stage represent ages of progress and decline interacting with each other in a space viewed on three sides of Tom Piper’s brilliant set that naturally provides alternate perspectives. Inescapable from wherever you sit is the fluidity and connection between the three leads – flawlessly navigating Smith’s intricately drawn script and their shifting roles. A rouge shoe is effortlessly moved out of the way and not a beat is missed. Molly Vevers is first-time voter Nora in 1918; Maryam Hamidi celebrates the sexual revolution of 1968 with the arrival of the pill; and Anna Russell-Martin shows us Nora in the consequences of austerity. The connection between the three actors is amazing and as their stories progress this woman finds herself drawn to each for different reasons.
The idea of living with a beyond patronising husband in a claustrophobic and unbearable world as in Ibsen is deftly drawn. Sugar, Valium and alcohol provide respite for the claret clad women, reinforcing how different they and the world they inhabit actually are. The modern day Nora is slightly stretched for this idea as Thomas played by Tim Barrow fulfils more clearly the role of an abuser as opposed to man who enacts privilege without thought. However, the backdrop of economic pressure as presented in Ibsen draws a clear line between the three.
Directed by Elizabeth Freestone this is a precise and thoughtful update. Nora provides a new perspective filled with eloquence, thought, talent and wonderful staging.
Nora runs until 6th April at the Citizen’s Theatre, Glasgow.