Articles relating to: Theatre Editor
In her introduction to the text for her play Hedda Tesman, Cordelia Lynn says that “The idea was to create a piece of new writing held within Ibsen’s original play….As a way of addressing developments in socio-political conditions for women since 1891, the ages and relationships of some of the characters have been changed.” The original play is Hedda Gabler, and she has certainly succeeded with the former, but I’m not convinced about the latter.
Let’s get the formalities out of the way. It’s beautifully acted as well as being nicely directed by Holly Race Roughan, and the design by Anna Fleischle (a big old house on The Lowry’s Quays stage which has been lowered and turned into a rather intimidating thrust) works well. It reminded me of the set for another reworking of Ibsen – Ghosts at Manchester’s HOME last year.
The cast, led by Haydn Gwynne as Hedda, is uniformly excellent, and it would be invidious to single anyone out, but I’m going to anyway. Irfan Shamji as Elijah gave the most convincing performance of an unrecovered alcoholic the morning-after that I have ever seen. And Gwynne led me to thinking that most unprofessional of thoughts, how does she remember all those lines? Perhaps it was being so close or perhaps I’m just old.
If you don’t know Hedda Gabler, it doesn’t matter. This play works entirely on its own. But if you do, the resonances are startling and revealing. However you come at it, the central problem with this version, for me at least, is that Hedda is a monster. It’s difficult to write about this without spoilers, but it’s clear from fairly early on that she doesn’t love her husband of some 20 years, and probably never has done. Her daughter talks about how her mother abused her, and then the actions Hedda takes in the play – for which she always has a good excuse – are precisely the behaviour of a sociopath. She clearly likes hurting people, and sets them up to see what they will do, like putting butterflies in a killing jar.
Lynn has done a good job of keeping Ibsen’s plot, but changing the roles of some characters so the original Thea, Hedda’s friend, has become Thea her daughter; and Ejlert Lovborg, Geroge Tesman’s academic rival, has become Elijah, his pupil. But otherwise all the relationships and major actions remain the same, albeit now and not in 1891. But, whereas the idea that the denouement – no spoilers here – in the original was a consequence of the newly-married, 20-something Hedda’s social oppression as a woman, in this version the two decades-married Hedda is an entirely different persona. The main question I asked was, how have the others, particularly her husband, put up with her for so long?
For example, much play is made in the original of the fact that Hedda refuses to use the familiar form ‘du’ to address her new husband’s Aunt Julie, and when she does accidentally use it, it is a matter of celebration. But if she’d been treating Aunt Julie like that for 20 years – and Aunt Julie, by the way, is a little ray of sunshine which is probably why Hedda can’t stand her, there’s nothing for her to get her claws into – then I doubt that Aunt Julie would treat her the way she does in this play, or be delighted when Hedda finally calls her “Auntie”, Lynn’s way of translating the familiar, which works very well.
Nevertheless this is an extremely good production, and a great chance to see some excellent acting close up. But, and I return to a well worn theme here, ultimately I have to ask, why is this being done at all? We are living through the most disruptive, significant, troubling period in our history since the Second World War. Where are the plays?
Images by Johan Persson
Hedda Tesman is at The Lowry until October 19, 2019. For more information, click here.
More the Forest of Forgotten Teddy Bears, I’d say, and just the place for a picnic.Read the full story..
I’m not going to beat about the bush, I am thoroughly biased.Read the full story..
Written by Rochdale-born Eileen Murphy to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the real events around the public hanging of the so-called ‘Manchester Martyrs’, this touring play from a new Rochdale-based company manages with surprising success to humanise what Murphy rightly characterises as “a huge, tragic and complicated event” whereby the struggle for Irish independence from the British Empire was played out in an English city, with consequences both national and international.Read the full story..
The starting point for this Royal Exchange Young Company production, directed by Matt Hassall and created by the Manchester Theatre Award-winning company to note fifty years after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, was the question “what is it to live in a world that denies you your most simple human right – to feel love, to share love and to be in love?”Read the full story..
By chance I found myself sitting next to Sam Dixon, the leader of Chester Council, at The Beggar’s Opera, the official opening performance for the city’s spanking new arts centre Storyhouse.Read the full story..
Sarah Punshon, the new artistic director of The Dukes in Lancaster, talks diversity and a disregard for boundaries
“It’s hard to put me in a box because my career has been so varied, which makes me a great match for The Dukes,” says Sarah Punshon, the new artistic director of the Lancaster venueRead the full story..
Rosie Fleeshman is the youngest member of Manchester’s First Family Of Theatre.Read the full story..
Advertising and Sponsorship Opportunities
For advertising and sponsorship opportunities contact Northern Soul’s Founder and Editor Helen Hugent at email@example.com.
Sign up for Northern Soul newsletter
The Northern Soul Poll
Recent Tweets for @Northern_Soul_
Be more Wilson. pic.twitter.com/eQXVew0QwK
Right Good Mid-Week Read: The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth by Frances Wilson pic.twitter.com/FWHskzgXlo
Coronavirus: Goats take over empty streets of seaside town. Story of the week? bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-…
How's your self-isolating going? (photo by Brad Carter) pic.twitter.com/ZwwhsH6FL4