by Henrik Ibsen adapted by Mark O’Rowe.

Abbey Theatre 26-27 Lower Abbey Street Dublin 1 To 16 May 2015
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2pm.
Runs 2hr 35 min One interval.

TICKETS: 01 8787 222.
Review: Anne O’Leary 17 April 2015.

A modern fit yet still true to Ibsen.
What breadth of meaning does this play have for contemporary society? Or is its situation unique to turn-of-the-century Norway? Mark O’Rowe’s new version confirms it as universal and shows there is some of Hedda in all of us.

He remains faithful to the original but as expected from a master of speech patterns, gives Henrik Ibsen’s terse dialogue a modern treatment. Hedda becomes less cold and repulsive, more irresponsible. Played faultlessly by Catherine Walker, she is flirtatious rather than manipulative with the men (other than her husband) whom she wishes to control.

If the audience is to sympathise with Hedda, then Tesman, her husband must irritate us in equal measure and he is played well by Peter Gaynor as the narcissistic academic who needs a trophy-wife to complete his image. His gathering of material during the course of his six month honeymoon for a book on the domestic crafts of medieval Brabant gets the loudest laugh of the night.

The creative team under the direction of Annabelle Comyn outnumber the cast in this production. It is worth a visit alone to see the fruits of their efforts from the splendid costumes (by Peter O’Brien) to the clever use of the enormous Abbey stage. The entire action takes place in the living room, designer Paul O’Mahony (also a sculptor) designing doors with freestanding frames. The absence of walls and the huge diagonal lines into the outer spaces emphasise the claustrophobic interior of the room.

Though this room is still spacious, it provides a good metaphor for the entrapment that makes Hedda’s situation untenable. Marking scene changes, images of walking feet are projected onto a screen on the back wall and chattering voices are heard – further markers of the life Hedda cannot partake in.

Keith McErlean’s Lovborg is disappointing, the pivotal character lacking energy and stage presence. It has to be credible that Hedda will fall for him, Tesman envy him, Thea Elvsed be infatuated by him and Judge Brack shocked by his notoriety. Maybe he was cast purposely without any Dionysian spirit, as ambiguity creates the intrigue of this play.

Aunt Julie: Jane Brennan.
Maid: Dee Burke.
Judge Brack: Declan Conlon.
Jorge Tesman: Peter Gaynor.
Ejlert Lovborg: Keith McErlean.
Berte: Deirdre Molloy.
Thea Elvsted: Kate Stanley Brennan.
Hedda Gabler: Catherine Walker.

Director: Annabelle Comyn.
Designer: Paul O’Mahony.
Lighting: Chahine Yavroyan.
Sound/Music: Philip Stewart.
Movement: Sue Mythen.
AudioVisual designer: Hugh O’Conor.
Costume: Peter O’Brien.

2015-04-21 13:34:07

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