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Review: Nora: A Doll’s House, at The Young Vic

Three Noras take to the stage at once – in 1918, 1968 and 2018 – as reworking of Ibsen classic captivates its audience

20 February, 2020 — By Leo Garib

Anna Russell-Martin, Amaka Okafor and Natalie Klamar in Nora: A Doll’s House. Photo: Marc Brenner

FEW plays have stood the test of time like A Doll’s House. Surely because little has changed for women since Ibsen broke the mould in the 1870s with his real-life story of a bullied wife who walks out on her marriage and children.

Nowadays, at least one in five women has been sexually assaulted, the law can’t cope with the soaring number of rapes, and women are in the most insecure jobs, with wages at least a quarter below men’s.

Lingering doubts women now have it all are answered by award-winning writer Stef Smith’s reworking of Ibsen’s classic.

She puts three Noras on the stage at once: Nora in 1918, in 1968 and 2018 – years that were markers for women.

In 1918, women got the vote; 50 years later, abortion was legalised; in 2018 workplace abuse went viral with #MeToo.

Amaka Okafor is the clear-headed 1918 Nora, Natalie Klamar, the pill-popping 1968 incarnation, and Anna Russell-Martin, the hard-drinking modern-day version.

Shackled to a domineering husband, Nora is terrified he’ll discover she took an illegal loan to keep the family afloat while he was out of work. In this modern version, it is a dodgy pay-day loan and Nora’s husband is a loan company manager.

Luke Norris plays all three incarnations of her husband, flummoxed when she finally slams the door on him and the kids. It all comes neatly together thanks to inspired direction by Elizabeth Freestone, tight choreography, a minimalist set, and smart acting.

Artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah has remade the Young Vic into one of the country’s most cutting-edge theatres.

Nowadays, there are more young, working-class and black theatregoers drawn to it than ever.

The nearby Old Vic, with its comparatively staid big-ticket productions, has been left in its wake. This was evident at the fist-clenching denouement, when a spellbound group of teenage schoolgirls were roused to cheer for Nora.

There could hardly be a more fitting celebration of the upcoming International Women’s Day.

Until March 21
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