Thursday, 20 October 2011

Hedda Gabler, Schaubuhne, Oct 19, 2011 *****

Hedda Gabler, by Henrik Ibsen
By Schaubühne Berlin, Melbourne Festival
Playhouse, Victorian Arts Centre,  Melbourne, Oct 19-22, 2011
Reviewed by: Kate Herbert on Oct 19, 2011
Published in Herald Sun on Oct 21, 2011 and on line at

 Hedda Gabler, Schaubühne Berlin. Melbourne Festival Oct 2011

Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, written in conservative 1890 Norway, is a compelling and surprisingly modern, story of a privileged young woman’s thwarted ambition and existential angst.

Thomas Ostermeier’s production hurls it into the 21st century where it looks completely at home. It is exceptional Realism with impeccable, nuanced acting and complex, seamless direction that conjure a claustrophobic, fraught world of human drama.

The characters collide in a stark, cold contemporary design (Jan Pappelbaum) – like a human specimen case –with walls of glass, glossy black tiles and fractured overhead mirrors that reflect and refract their warped lives.

This production is Realism at its best. The impeccable, nuanced acting and complex, seamless direction draw us into the characters’ claustrophobic, fraught world that has elements of both high drama and soap opera.

The controversial, Hedda Gabler, played with a delicious balance of toughness, cruelty, sexuality and vulnerability by Katharina Schüttler, is a manipulative, ambitious and egocentric anti-heroine who feels powerless in a male-dominated world where women have no property, work or control over their lives.

Hedda seeks power by marrying a man she believes will become successful and wealthy then chooses to abandon him emotionally as she uses her sensuality to draw in two other men like a black widow.

Lars Eidinger is delightfully nerdy but charming as her husband, Tesman, the mediaeval art historian whose greatest passion is his dusty research.

Wolfgang Maria Bauer is a strong, potent presence as Judge Brack, a lawyer and Hedda’s secret admirer, giving Brack warmth and depth to counter his deviousness.

Kay Batholomäus Schulze balances arrogance and playfulness in Hedda’s former lover, Eilert Lovborg, creating his complex, troubled inner world.

As Thea Elvsted, Annedore Bauer is timid and fragile and Lore Stefanek gives Aunt Juliane Tesman a vibrating nervousness.

We witness Hedda hurtling towards the catastrophic, grand gesture that she craves to make her feel alive. She may be a victim of her society, but our sympathies tilt against her emotional brutality and selfishness.


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