Left – Alison Bell and Cameron Goodall. Cover – Cameron Goodall, Alison Bell, Kate Cheel and Terence Crawford. Photos – Shane Reid
Someone once wrote that theatre should be as relevant to the past and future as it is to the present. While this often leads to the garish modernisation of classic texts, Joanna Murray-Smith’s adaptation of Hedda Gabler is anything but. The new realisation of Henrik Ibsen’s work tastefully envelops the audience in a story of both tradition and relevance.
Title character Hedda Gabler yearns for far more than her dreary domestic inhabitancy. Despite taking pleasure in manipulating those around her, she is shadowed by her academic husband and thus makes a series of decisions that have devastating consequences.
There is little notable plot development until later in the piece, as most emphasis is placed upon the characters. Far from tame though, the characters are fascinatingly multifaceted and Murray-Smith’s dialogue is well written. Through this eloquent new adaptation, Ibsen’s examination of social interaction, gender roles and status is just as current as it was in 1890.
Tackling one of theatre’s most dynamic female roles is Alison Bell as Hedda. It is an amazing, layered performance; captured by delicate facial nuances and a deep, commanding voice. Although, the decrescendo that is so often present in Bell’s delivery is disconcerting and this fleeces of conviction.
Director Geordie Brookman has assembled a fine cast; Cameron Goodall and Kate Cheel both give wonderful performances. The maniacal brilliance of Nathan O’Keefe’s Eilert Lovburg is superb. Ensemble sequences like the announcement of Eilert’s death lack somewhat – perhaps through realism or integrity. Similarly, the aftermath of Hedda’s suicide was poorly conveyed and detracted from the scene’s weight.
In its artfully anatomised form, the set was swamped by the stage’s expanse. A chef may attempt to reimagine and deconstruct the humble apple crumble, but in doing so, alienates the fundamental components. Captivating but maybe too skeletal.
Beyond these criticisms, the production is very well executed. There is chilling familiarity and truth in Hedda Gabler that lingers long after leaving the theatre.
State Theatre Company of South Australia presents
by Henrik Ibsen | adaptation by Joanna Murray-Smith
Director Geordie Brookman
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse
Dates: 26 Apr – 18 May, 2013
Tickets: $55 – $45