Joanne Murray-Smith’s Hedda Gabler observed how the fundamentals of gender roles, social interaction and status are significant today as are they were in 1891.
While maintaining a balance of relevance and tradition in this contemporary adaption to Henrik Ibsen’s classic Murray-Smith has, unfortunately, left her audience in a colourless time-lapse, before the play’s tension-building climax.
Allison Bell’s (Hedda Gabler) portrayal of perhaps theatre’s most destructive and authoritative female leads, was a glass half empty. We are introduced to her deciphering the position of a settee, as she continuously shuffles it across the stage in a frazzled state of mind.
Despite this initial slice of mystery, she seemed to lack the same kind of flair her previous roles in theatre were able to deliver. Her overly monotonous tone and careless demeanour made the audience detach from her persona, as they struggled to find a relating quality.
Although, it became rather amusing to witness how Gabler was able to manipulate those around her for shear pleasure and to disturb the order of her bleak inhabitancy.
In contrast to Bell’s tedious depiction, the lighting (Geoff Cobham) and sound (DJ TR!P) production succeeded in diverting their audience from the long and tiresome scenes through thunderous strobing effects and heart-pumping techno music, implemented between significant plot points.
This seemed to be an attempt to visually depict the chaotic mindset of Bell’s role, as the insanity became more rigorous and prevalent throughout the performance.
The set design (Geoff Cobham) showed a Norwegian winter, with lifeless trees in the backdrop of a room with minimal sophistication. A desk and chair, with a settee were the only pieces of furniture utilised on the stage.
Furthermore, the complexity of the dialogue failed to achieve clarity as interest was misplaced in the unstable and long-winded chatter between these mundane personas, who ultimately lacked vibrancy.
Even so, the aftermath of Gabler’s suicide was conveyed rather poorly and lessened the impact of the play’s culmination.
With that said, the unsettling accuracy in Bell’s dialogue persists to linger with you beyond the space of the theatre as you are left to reconsider certain aspects of your life.
State Theatre Company of South Australia
By Henrik Ibsen | adaption by Joanna-Murray-Smith
Director Geordie Brookman
Venue: Dustan Playhouse
Dates: 26 April – 18 May, 2013