AFTER an eight year absence from the stage, actor Will Ash is back at Manchester’s Royal Exchange in an ambitious and powerful reimagining of a classic.

Will plays Thomas, husband to three different Noras over the space of a century in Nora: A Doll’s House in this imaginative adaptation of Ibsen’s seminal work by award-winning writer Stef Smith.

“That’s some leap from Jack Duckworth’s bouncy castle,” laughed Will who appeared in an episode of Coronation Street when he was just 10.

“There was this sort of street party going on an Jack had hired a bouncy castle. I was just this young lad who gave him some cheek.”

Since then Will has become a familiar face on TV through series such as Waterloo Road, Making Out and Channel 4’s Wanderlust alongside Toni Collette. He was also, memorably, Jesus in Shameless.


INTENSE: Will Ash and Yusra Warsama and (below) Will and Jodie McNee in Nora: A Doll’s House (Pictures: Helen Murray)

INTENSE: Will Ash and Yusra Warsama and (below) Will and Jodie McNee in Nora: A Doll’s House (Pictures: Helen Murray)


“It’s brilliant to be back on stage, particularly in this building,” he said of his return to the Exchange. “The last time I did theatre work it was here with a piece called Hunger for Trade in the Studio.

“There’s something special about the Exchange, perhaps it’s because I’m from Manchester and it’s where I’d come to see plays when I was at school.”

Will admits he could have picked something a little more straightforward for his stage return but he’s delighted to be part of this particular production.

“When I first I read it realised it was brilliant play,” he said, “then as we started to work on it in rehearsals I realised it’s pretty incredible.”

The play looks at the lives of three different Noras in 1918, 1968 and 2018, all played by different actors, with Will portraying the husband of all three.

“Until we got into it I don’t think I fully appreciated the enormity of it,” he said, “but it’s such an exciting challenge.


William Ash

William Ash


“Thomas is very much a creature of his period so in 1918 the way he speaks to Nora is very different to how he speaks to her in 2018 but essentially he has the same core values. And that’s one of the keys to the play - making us realise that perhaps we haven’t moved on as far as we think we have when it comes to society’s attitude towards women.”

Although Ibsen’s Doll’s House is acknowledged as a masterwork it can be a pretty brutal experience for theatregoers.

“When you say Ibsen it immediately image conjures up certain images,” said WIll, “but I think people will be surprised if they come expecting that with this production.

“Of course it’s not a comedy but there are some funny moments and moments of lightness and it’s definitely a conversation starter.

“There have been some amazing steps forward made but actually when you scratch away at the surface those conventions that trap women and hem people in are still there. And in some ways it’s more difficult now as the problems aren’t as obvious. When women didn’t have the vote, there was an obvious solution to that but there is still a lot to be done.”

The chance to play against three different actors is something Will is relishing.

“They each bring different things to their own Nora and that influences how I approach my character,” he said. “In many respects Thomas is a victim too. He’s trapped by the conventions of society about how a man is expected to behave and you want the audience to feel for him, he’s not just a hate figure.”

Will admits to being consumed by the role and the themes of the play.

“It is very intense and I’ve found myself coming into rehearsals on the tram or cycling in just thinking about the character and the themes of the play,” he said. “You do have to try to have some down time but the play benefits if you are so invested in it - the audience can certainly feel that.”

Nora: A Doll’s House, Royal Exchange, Manchester, until Saturday, April 2. Details from