When Anna Russell-Martin left the Royal Conservatory of Scotland in 2018, she held one of the most treasured positions a newly graduated actor in Scotland can earn, as an intern at Citizens’ Theater Company; And it was as part of her Citizens job, in the spring of 2019, that she first met the 21st century character of Nora, in Stef Smith’s shiny new reworking of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.
In Smith’s version, presented by the Citizens’ Theater at the Tramway last March, Ibsen’s heroine Nora, the young wife and mother who takes out an illegal loan to help support her family and save her husband’s health. , while all the time pretending to be nothing. But the silly, empty-headed girl that he imagines herself to be is divided into three characters, spanning the century since women were first allowed to vote in the UK. The first belongs to 1918, a time when women were still not allowed to sign financial contracts without the signature of a male relative. The second lives in 1968, the year in which credit cards began to be used, and the first echoes of the women’s liberation movement began to cross the Atlantic; And the third is a 21st-century working-class Nora, who is on the brink of despair over a failing marriage, the demands of family life, and an ever-narrowing network of high-interest payday loans.
Russell-Martin was born in Coatbridge in 1998; her father is a psychiatric nurse, and both parents always encouraged her to follow their acting star, after a child dance teacher discovered her dramatic talent. Her impressive performance as the current Nora de Smith, in a powerful Elizabeth Freestone production, was one of the highlights of her extraordinary first year as a professional actress, which also included impressive performances in Jack Thorne’s monologue Bunny, in Toy de Umah Nada-Rajah. Plastic Chicken at A Play, A Pie And A Pint and, in November at the Traverse, in the thrilling National Theater of Scotland production of Jenni Fagan’s stage version of her own 2012 novel The Panopticon, about a brilliant girl named Anais. caught up in the fatigue of the Scottish institutional care system.
In this short excerpt from Nora, who was in the last week of her London run at the Young Vic that the coronavirus intervened, Russell-Martin captures the growing despair and panic of a young woman trapped in an increasingly impossible domestic and financial situation. . For Smith, Nora’s story from the 21st century is about the colossal financial stress that families at the bottom of the income scale now experience and the extremes that women will go to trying to maintain a functional household. for your children. And while the play was written before anyone had heard of Covid-19, it’s hard to imagine a recent Scottish theater moment that more perfectly captures the agony of financial and emotional pressure that many women are enduring under lock and key in this one. moment.
Nora’s text is published by Nick Hern Books, £ 9.99.