Theatre Group’s production of Hedda Gabler saw a selfish, neurotic, destructive titular character take to Banham Theatre’s stage.
From her first moments in the play, Lucy Johnson’s portrayal of arguably one of drama’s most interesting women swung a comfortable balance between energetic and subtle. Complimented by a strong supporting cast and confident approach to building intrigue and tension upon one another by the directorial team Tom Mitchell (director) and Tilly Wax (assistant director), Henrik Ibsen’s play missed few beats in keeping me on the edge of my seat.
That’s not to say, however, that the play was without fault. There were moments where the usuallystrong energy of the play faltered as the chemistry between cast members seemed to run dry. These moments were never long, and in the face of being staged on the same day as a fireworks display and with an audience incessant on rustling sweet wrappers, the way the actors and actresses were able to pick up their energy whenever it was lost and gloss over the weaker parts remained impressive.
As the play followed Hedda through a journey of manipulation for power, it was the supporting cast that really brought out the tension in the play. It was only in contrast to the often hilarious childlike naivety of John Chavasse’s Jurgen Tesman (Hedda’s “boring” husband) and the timid yet passionate Olivia Moon as Thea Elvsted (One of Hedda’s old schoolmates) that Lucy Johnson’s unhinged yet commanding personality really seemed to take a turn for the darker.
The strongest facets of the play were definitely its pacing and comedic timing. I often find that during tense productions, poor use of comedy can break down a play’s tone and spoil the overall effect. However not only were the comedic elements well timed and well framed, but they also often added to the tension by endearing characters Hedda was plotting against to the audience.
The overall pacing of the piece was well directed to compliment this; at the beginning of the second act the tension and intrigue of Hedda’s plans and motives start to come together. The paced yet purposeful delivery of dialogue in this section of the play really aided in setting up the pieces of plot and promising their eventual fall in the play’s finale. And what a finale it was. Hedda’s descent from victory and elation to despair, the loss of control in all aspects of her life, the crude manipulation by Judge Brack (Thomas Midgley); all the promised pieces fell and the play resolved itself in all the horrific glory it repeatedly promised throughout.
Having lost all grasp on the power she sought so much and forced to submit to the tyrannical power of Brack, Hedda pointed her father’s gun at her own head and the entire audience held their breath… Only for the sound effect cue to fail and the director to be forced to yell “bang” to close off the play.
Although, to be fair to him, it was done loud enough to make me jump near the front.
Despite a couple of minor problems, theatre group’s Hedda Gabler was a resounding success. The cast and crew have all done a great job and I hope we see them grace the stage once more next semester.