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April 27, 2009 | by  | in Theatre |
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Hedda Gabler

Hedda Gabler, as a theatrical text, is canonical. Synonymous with good theatre, it sits shoulder to metaphorical shoulder with the other behemoths of the form—Hamlet, Godot, The Seagull, a wee way down the line Angels in America—daring you to put it on. It carries with it a wealth of expectations and exceptions. Everyone has their own very personal interpretation of it and own separate set of hooks into it. The story of Hedda Tesman (neé Gabler) and just how stuck within her new house with her new husband she is. Old friends return, settled dust is disturbed and there is no room in their house for flowers. There are a million ways to do this play, and most people will say that most of them are wrong. People care a lot about this play and you’re never going to please everyone all of the time. Unless you’re a half-octopus, half-feather duster creature who can move at the speed of light. But such things are sadly rare these days.

The Wild Duck have made a very smart decision in their current production of Hedda. They have transferred it to modern day Wellington, translating and adapting the script as they go. This is a brave and a bold move, made with aplomb and courage. They have also made a clear departure from the realist mode of the original text, not so much reworking as remixing the play into a less restrictive mode, letting scenes flow into and out of each other much more organically. Whether this is a change too far to the text is really for individuals to decide.

The cast do fine if underwhelming work, none of them really excelling as much as I wanted them to. This is not a judgement against their fine performances, more against my expectations of a group of performers with this pedigree working with such a perfect text.

Lawrence’s direction is slick and uncluttered, hitting all the right beats within the piece. The design by Penny Angrick and Ulli Briese is distinct and pleasing.

Whether you will enjoy this production of Hedda Gabler is hard to tell. It has really polarised people and the only way to find out will be to see it for yourself.

Written by Henrik Ibsen
Adapted by the Wild Duck
Directed by David Lawrence
With Clare Kerrison, Asalemo Tofete, Tupe Lualua, Amy Tartleton, Salesi Le’ota and Michael Ness
At BATS, 15 April–2 May 9pm (No Shows Sunday or Monday)

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