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What a head has Hedda

Hedda Gabler, that is.

Tonight I went to see Theatre Inconnu‘s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. The play is long and it’s past 11:30p.m. now – I won’t even pretend that I’ll come in under the midnight wire with a thorough blog entry about this play or any other topic today.

I’ll venture this, though: Graham McDonald’s adaptation was intriguing. George Tesman (Hedda Gabler’s husband) is now a researcher in environmental matters, and his “rival” Lovborg is in the same field, except that he has found a “solution” to the upcoming dilemma of Dec. 21, 2012 (3 months away, in the play) – the solution, in manuscript form, is what he loses upon leaving Senator Brack’s party/orgy. The environmental aspect is played up – camped-up, you might say – to the max: in McDonald’s version, the play is called “Hedda Gabler 2012 CE,” and subtitled, “An experimental pre-apocalyptic Henrik Ibsen classic.”

Casey Austin played the title role – she was very good, and reminded me of a young Katherine Hepburn: that brilliant, dazzling, but icy smile, the perfectly patrician face with the darting, incredibly mobile eyes.

But what a psychopath the character of Hedda is…

I was relieved when she shot herself off-stage at play’s end, whereas the son (who came with me tonight) was annoyed that she didn’t get a proper comeuppance: he muttered something about how she should have had her ass handed to her and that Aristotle would not have been pleased… Which in turn got us on the subject of entertainment, and whether a play like this can ever be entertaining in any sense of the word. I suspect similar questions informed its rocky beginnings, although Wikipedia’s history of past productions show that it enjoyed greater favor as the 20th century progressed.


  1. Sounds like an intriguing production. Ibsen is not a regular feature on most theatre repertoires these days, and this particular play has had a history mostly as a venue for actresses. Which is why, I always thought of it as “entertaining,” but you are right, there is that question, what with also the overworked mental-illness angle in so much literature, of the play as not entertainment.

    Comment by maria — June 26, 2010 #

  2. Good point about this piece being a vehicle for the leading actress, Maria. I’m not well-enough versed in theater or the history of Ibsen to have picked up on that, but it’s true of course that everything revolves around “Hedda” while the others are secondary.
    I rather liked Graham’s conceit of using ecology and environmental concerns – it makes Hedda’s destruction of the Lovberg’s manuscript even more monstrous, while taking away nothing from the enigma of her inner neuroses.
    And that gets us back to the “overworked mental-illness angle” – completely agree that, being overworked, it’s getting self-indulgent. Really, Hedda’s neuroses are very secondary if we’re knocking at global death’s door.

    Comment by Yule — June 26, 2010 #

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