Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler

Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler
Hill Street Theatre (Venue 41)
3 stars ***

IT’S HARD to say what I was expecting from Palindrome Theatre of Austin, Texas, and their 90 minute version of one of Ibsen’s finest plays; a post-modern mash-up, maybe, in which Hedda would encounter Lady Gaga on a walk in the garden, and consider the possibilities of self-reinvention.

What I got, though, in the end, was a short, well-cut, and deftly-translated modern-dress version of the original play by the company member Nigel O’Hearn, and a sharp reminder of just what a brilliant drama Ibsen shapes, in his story of the restless, clever daughter of General Gabler, now trapped in a suffocating marriage to the tedious Tesman, and in thrall to her neighbour Judge Brack, a powerful man who knows too much both about Hedda’s past, and about the events which unfold during the play.

The story of Hedda’s frustrated creative and erotic energy – brought to a crisis by an encounter with her former admirer, the poet Eilert Lovborg, and Lovborg’s new love Thea Elvsted – is told with real intensity and professionalism in this short and memorable show; and if the acting is sometimes a little uneven, and the imagery not quite what the text implies, it’s still an enjoyable account of a great play, delivered with absolute respect, and a genuine creative spark.

Joyce McMillan
Until 29 August
p. 270



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