In Belvoir’s newest production Nora, co-writers Kit Brookman and Anne-Louise Sarks (also the production’s Director) reimagine Henrik Isbnen’s 1879 play A Dolls House, to a mixed and unsettled result. Focusing on Isben’s protagonist, the iconic frustrated housewife Nora Helmer who walks out on her husband and two children, this contemporary epilogue serves to ask ‘what did Nora do next?’
Act one introduces the audience to a modern-day Nora, an aimless middle-class housewife to her incessantly nasty and manipulative husband Torvald and two young children. Blazey Best’s performance as Nora is a wonder to watch, as she effortlessly portrays the tumultuousness of Nora’s emotion with fluidity and precision, wandering through the bare, steel-framed house in bursts of delight, frustration, and sorrow. With equal power, Damien Ryan as Torvald proves to be a consistent, needling personification of patriarchy, undermining Nora until her pivotal and (to him) abrupt and unwarranted departure at the end of act one.
However, though the question of what Nora did next is answered in act two, it’s disappointingly anticlimactic. Nora turns up on Helen’s doorstep – an ex-work colleague from Nora’s past, who is perplexed by our protagonist’s choice of refuge. The following hour is a series of stilted conversation, which unfurl the nuanced lives of these two women. Punctuated by the refilling of gin, the next hour resolves with Nora’s expression that “my children cannot be a reason for being”, and it’s this loss of self that motivated Nora all along. Though act two dissects this motivation, and is beautifully performed by Best and Cropper, the play fails to build a believable momentum that could possibly catalyse Nora’s abandonment of her family.
Despite this suspension of disbelief, the production is warm and engaging, with Belvoir’s hallmark high standards. By condensing an abridged version of A Doll’s House into the reimagined play, Brookman and Sarks introduce a fresh-take to a new audience, investing them in Nora’s marriage. However this investment isn’t followed through, leaving the audience to question what the loss a modern-day Nora would feel on departure.
Words by Alice Hatton
Nora plays at the Belvoir Street Theatre until 14 September – tickets here.
Image via Belvoir Street Theatre