Thursday 5th to Saturday 7th July and Tuesday 10th to Saturday 14th July 1984
Directed by David Penrose
Thrilling, enigmatic, destructive, Hedda Gabler is one of theatre's most irresistible heroines. Returning from her honeymoon and already bored with her marriage, Hedda finds herself caught between the brilliant but dissolute Eilert Loevborg and the clutches of the predatory Judge Brack. As a shocking path of destruction unfolds, there can be only one outcome...
First published in 1890, Hedda Gabler is probably Ibsen's most performed play, with the title role regarded as one of the most challenging and rewarding for an actress. The action takes place in a villa in Christiania (now known as Oslo), Norway. Hedda Gabler, daughter of an aristocratic General, has just returned from her honeymoon with George Tesman, an aspiring but reliable young academic. Desperately unromantic, he has combined research with their honeymoon and it becomes clear in the course of the play that she has never loved him but has married him because of the tediousness of her life.
The character of Hedda is considered by some critics as one of the great dramatic roles in theatre; the "female Hamlet". Depending on the interpretation, Hedda may be portrayed as an idealistic heroine fighting society, a victim of circumstance, a prototypical feminist, or a manipulative villain. Her almost demonic energy proves both attractive and destructive for those around her.
The play premiered in 1891 in Germany to negative reviews, but has subsequently gained recognition as a classic of realism, 19th century theatre and world drama. The first UK performance was at the Vaudeville Theatre, London in 1891. The play has been adapted for screen a number of times, from the silent film era of the early 1910s to the present day in several languages. Awards include the 1992 and the 2006 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Revival.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Miss Juliana Tesman||Janet Simpson|
|George Tesman||John Valentine|
|Hedda Tesman||Ingrid Corrigan|
|Mrs Thea Elvsted||Gina Cameron|
|Judge Brack||Ray Osborne|
|Eilert Loevborg||Frank Lyons|
|Stage Manager||Peter Holding|
|Assistant Stage Managers||Jude Salmon|
|Set Construction||Bill Bickers |
Bench Theatre Members
'Hedda Gabler' was written in 1890; Ibsen was sixty-two. His work had already passed through two clearly marked phases. The first major plays had drawn on Norwegian folk-myth, characterising the struggles of life through the inner demons and spirits which posses us; the troll world of 'Peer Gynt' (1867). From large scale poetic dramas the plays moved to a treatment of contemporary social themes: the independence of women within marriage in 'A Doll's House' (1879); the corruption of provincial officialdom in 'An Enemy of the People' (1882). The link between these two violently different kinds of play is that Ibsen always wrote about individuals striving to find personal identity; a sense of achievement; and love. For Ibsen, being alone makes it our duty to find out who we are - and to become that person.
As old age approached, the playwright took stock of himself in exactly this light. The last phase of his work is dominated by an inclusive, often harsh self-analysis. With 'Hedda Gabler' he pulled both of his earlier pre-occupations into sharp focus; the dark, destroying forces deep within him and the shrewd observation of life around him. All the characters are extensions of parts of Ibsen's personality. On stage he set them to war. That he should choose a woman's life for the battlefield allowed him to play out the conflict between our ambitions and what we are actually capable of achieving in the most severe circumstances. A young friend of Ibsen's, Helene Raff, recorded the content of a conversation she had with him in 1889:
"He stressed that women's will in particular tends to remain undeveloped: we dream and wait for something unknown that will give our lives meaning. As a result of this women's emotional lives are unhealthy, and they fall victim to disappointment."
The tragedy of wasted life is played out with a passion, but not without humour in the drawing room of a late 19th Century small town in Ibsen's 'Hedda Gabler'. A fine production by the Bench Theatre, Havant, gives Ingrid Corrigan the role of a lifetime. That her presence commands the stage from her first entry proves she meets the challenge of Hedda with ease, conveying both her thread of steel and her vulnerability. Main strengths in David Penrose's direction are the choice of an unfussy translation by Michael Meyer, and the natural quality of the dialogue. On the first night, the audience quickly picked up on the play's many funny or ironical lines. Good casting helped here, too, with the right level of comic understatement from Janet Simpson newcomer John Valentine as deadly dull George Tesman, and especially Ray Osborne as Judge Brack, whose somewhat sinister bulk broods over the Tesman household in the role of avuncular family friend. Gina Cameron and Frank Lyons brought a careful mix of hope and fatal weakness to the intense young couple, Thea and Loevborg, who fall prey to Hedda's manipulative power. The intimacy of the David Spackman Theatre at Havant Arts Centre adds to the sense of a heroine's confinement to a small, rather cluttered interior. This production is played in period costume - would the General's daughter have to settle for secondhand power today? Make up your own mind by seeing 'Hedda Gabler' at Havant Arts Centre, showing tonight and from Tuesday to Saturday next week at 7.30 p.m. For tickets contact the Centre at Havant 472700
The News, 7th July 1984