Friday, 3 October 2008

*** 'Hedda' - The Gate Theatre

The Gate Theatre presents

World Premiere


by Henrik Ibsen

Adapted by Lucy Kirkwood

Hedda, still mourning for the father she adored, returns from a six-month honeymoon with a man she no longer loves. The only way she can find passion and excitement is through the wilful damage of others. Trapped, dangerous and caught between the three men in her life; something in the end must give...
Director Carrie Cracknell

Designer Holly Waddington

Lighting Katharine Williams

Choreographer Temitope Ajose-Cutting

Sound Ed Lewis

Casting Lucy Bevan
Cast Cara Horgan - Hedda Gabler, Cath Whitefield - Julia Tesman, Tom Mison - George Tesman, Alice Patten - Thea Eldridge, Christopher Obi - Toby Brack, Adrian Bower - Eli Longford

Everything about this show works

We walk in to our seats, past Hedda listlessly smoking, down the stairs and through the room of their new house.

The new version of this show places everything in the actual here-and-now: the house is in Notting Hill, the people are Oxford graduates, George and Hedda are returned from travels through Japan, it is early Autumn September...

The design works so intimately we feel as though we are in George and Hedda's flaking house amongst the packing boxes. It is easy to feel Hedda's sense of being trapped - she is the only character who never leaves the house. We see the the other characters though her eyes, but at the same time we are constantly looking for clues to understand her through these other people:

George puppy dog energies that in the end become steeled into his fierce morality reflect Hedda's amorality;

Thea's wispy fragility that becomes a fluid strength of purpose and focus reflects a vapid vacuousness in Hedda;

Eli's manic fire and violence that becomes a lurching blind hysteria shows Hedda off with a childish immaturity and spite - shot through with teenage melodrama reaching for effect rather than meaningful substance;

Julia's cloying lack of self esteem that shows off Hedda's cruelty in all its delicious malice;

and Toby's determined easy manipulation that makes Hedda's meddling look clumsy and amateur

From the first moment of this show we are held completely in this room with these people - and increasingly so with Hedda herself, who expertly never loses our sympathy. She dangles us brilliantly between being a woman of great mystery and woman of great hurt and vulnerability, seducing us into believing - along with Tesman, Longford and Brack - that we are the only one who can fully understand and therefore save her. It is a brilliant performance but one that relies totally on the same completeness from her fellow actors.

The new writing makes the play relevant and real without losing sacrificing anything from the original (i will look forward to reading this new text along with a previous translation). One of its triumphs is to make every word and every action unquestionably acceptable, although this is not a play where i felt every next moment is inevitable - it keeps a sense of possibility right though into the final moments of Hedda's response to being trapped under Brack's power, so that as well as believing that she has and would shoot herself, there is still the possibility that she never fully intended to die.

The use of contemporary music throughout added mood, texture and placement to 'reading' the play and its people - especially Hedda

I am also hugely curious to know what the writing process involved and to what extent the players received a near-finished text to bring to life or rather the text was made through a process of collaborative performance making.

absolutely the best experience i have had watching a classic play since 'Major Barbara'.

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