A reworking of Henrik Isben’s 1879 groundbreaking play, ‘Nora: A Doll’s House’ by Stefi Smith was beautifully adapted by Exeter University Theatre Company in this production. The play features three simultaneous versions of Nora in 1918, 1968 and 2018 – with the years aligning themselves with significant moments in the feminist movement
To execute what is essentially three versions of the same play at the same time on one stage is no easy task, yet Sorcha Harris with her outstanding cast and production team make this gripping two hour production fly by with ease. As the three incarnations of Nora orbit one another around the space of the stage, set up as a living room in a middle class household, a story of drama, tension, blackmail and desperation unfolds.
1918 Nora (Millie Jewry) portrays a woman witnessing the world open up – namely in the ability to now vote. She is of a polite and smiling disposition with all the right amount of sinister lurking beneath. 1968 Nora (Carys Morgan) grapples with a world moving fast with new opportunities for young women that she did not have, a performance encapsulating the eeriness of Cliff Richard’s ‘Living Doll’. Meanwhile, 2018 Nora (Ellie Cheevers) accurately plays a 21st century woman familiar to us all, who is still forced to assume the roles of housekeeping and childcare in a world which insists obsolescence upon the concept of feminism. They all share the desire to be a good wife and mother, yet they all suffer in deafening silence under the same patronising husband – played masterfully by Jed Spre.
While the female cast members change with each iteration of the story, the three men remain the same, representing the many evolutions and changes of women over the last one hundred years – adjustments to a male dominated world that just won’t budge. The seemingly subconscious presence of each Nora to one another is both haunting and comforting in worlds where a woman’s madness is a seemingly sane response. The audience is presented with the story of a woman surrounded by doors, through which all other characters seem to move freely in and out of, yet across all timelines she seems bound to the suffocating space of her home and duties as wife and mother. As the three Noras’ express the story, their dialogue meets in moments of profound realisation as they embark upon a journey of self-worth and autonomy.
The show is infused with rich monologues, passionate performances and a suspense that left the audience erupting with excited chatter during the interval. The actors glide and blend into one another in a stage set-up which perfectly compliments the dynamics and nuances of the production. This is a show which emanates a real sense of quality and attention to detail which goes above and beyond what can be expected of a student theatre company. It’s certainly not one to miss.
Photo by Ella Gant