Hedda Gabler

Reviewing a play would be a bit of a departure from tradition at the eagerreviewer but here we go…

Ivo van Hove’s take on Henik Ibsen’s 19th century play Hedda Gabler.

The play opens in a large, practically empty room. Newly weds Tesman and Hedda Gabler are back from a six month honeymoon.As friends traipse in and out of the new house, “so much space and light!” , greeting and congratulating the couple, we realise that Hedda hates her life and is bored of her husband whom she married out of desperation. She has a pretty complicated life. It turns out that she’s sleeping with a family friend, and when an old school friend shows up (because this is a work of fiction) it turns out  she (Gabler) used to be romantically involved with her (the school mate’s) lover as well. The same lover is also her husband’s colleague and could be applying for the same job as Tesman which Tesman desperately needs to pay off honeymoon and new house debt. Financial issues bring everything to a head. Until Tesman gets his job the couple have to live very simply and cannot be a part of the social scene of…Norway. 😀

The play’s tone was ridiculously off in some moments. I couldn’t understand the odd emphasis placed on some words and phrases by the Judge Brack character. Ruth Wilson does deserve all her plaudits though, at some point Brack was spitting on her.Literally. Like he would take a drink of tomato juice and then dribble it onto her head or spit it out on to her face. And at the the end of this he says -completely dead pan- “I have you in my power.”.  !!!!!! Er, too right you do, Captain Obvious.

van Hove explained the austere set, saying that it represented Gabler’s mind. He also said that all the characters entered and left the stage from the auditorium , all except Gabler who stays put on stage all the time. This device was meant to show that freedom and escape was always within her grasp and that she created her own cage. I didn’t make the connection myself, but the explanation made it interesting.

I guess experiments in directing, production and acting are important. But they need to make sense as well. I guess my problem with this play was that if was supposed to be a 21st century take on Hedda Gabler maybe it could have been located in time better- by changing dialogue to remarks that make more sense in the 21st century e.g. Lovberg’s speech about his lost manuscript. Honestly it’s like everyone’s on their own trip and no one really shares a common plane of reality, or maybe they do as long as no one’s talking to Hedda.  And even if it isn’t supposed to be about realism then all of the emotions should make sense, they don’t always, and the end result is just odd. In spots. There is a lot of humour which is pleasant, but not all of it is intentional.  Also I couldn’t stand most of the music. Final verdict? Bit of a washout.5/10.


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