Wednesday, 22 February 2017

REVIEW: Hedda Gabler at Newcastle Northern Stage


Ibsen’s Masterpice Is Brought Alive

Hedda Gabler, This is Not a Love Story
Newcastle Northern Stage
Until Wednesday 8th March 2017

By Henrik Ibsen
A new version adapted and directed by Selma Dimitrijevic
From the literal translation by Anne and Karin Bamborough

Photo: Topher McGrillis
As part of Northern Stage’s Queens of the North season, Hedda Gabler – This is not a love story is an intriguing tale of a marriage of two halves: a relationship in which both of the protagonists have a different view of how it is going and how to make it successful. This is a very watchable version of Henrick Ibsen’s masterpiece.

Photo: Topher McGrillis
With throbbing music by composer and sound designer Scott Twynholm, Aunt Julie (Libby Davison) is trying to prepare the dining room as maid Berte (Polly Frame) is trying to restore it to the previous arrangement. There is clear tension between these two. The happy honeymooning couple then return from their 6 month trip away. Dr Jørgen Tesman (Ed Gaughan) is brimming with excitement as he has clearly seen the trip away as an opportunity to carry out further academic research into old texts. His vivacious bride, former socialite, Hedda Gabler is more circumspect about the couple’s time together.

Photo: Topher McGrillis
The couple soon have visitors. Jørgen’s former acquaintance Thea (Rachel Denning) appears to warn that fellow writer Ejlert Løvborg (Scott Turnbull) is back in town. Judge Brack (Donald McBride) also appears and invites the new groom to attend one of his parties. This will leave former party girl Hedda stuck at home playing the quiet obedient wife, a role she is not used to.  She is the daughter of a general and was used to being a gun-toting, horse-riding, party-throwing siren and then she ran out of opportunity and now has Aunt Julie dropping big hints about starting a family.

Photo: Topher McGrillis
The play follows a short period in the couple’s life and the tension is clear to see. Hedda has desires and moves to ensure those events happen even though such wishes might be at odds with her husband’s and, indeed, those of the audience.

Photo: Topher McGrillis
The play show cases powerful women. Victoria Elliott, as Hedda, struts around the simple and effective single roomed set. It is clear too that Aunt Julie has significant control over Hedda’s husband. By contrast Thea has suffered in the past and is more willing to help and support now. Special mention should go to Polly Frame who raised a smile each time she trooped on set with yet another cup for a new visitor. The downtrodden maid had almost comic timing with her usually non-verbal actions.

Photo: Topher McGrillis
Tom Piper’s set & costume design set the tone for a classic setting. Lizzie Powell’s lighting broke up the action and worked really well.

Photo: Topher McGrillis
The sound was fine until the final monologue/outburst from Hedda. This happened at the same time and the music was swelling up and it was a struggle at times to hear the spoken parts.

Photo: Topher McGrillis
For much of the show, the production felt like a classic, traditional drama performance. There is nothing wrong at all with that. The show succeeded in illustrating the struggle for a woman to have a voice, to have a role, to be heard, especially once a part of a couple. The actors gave us credible characters. For example Donald McBride was the alpha Judge with friends in high places in contrast to the capable academic, played by Ed Gaughan, who was willing to follow. Powerful characters, and a good story, lead to a pleasing night at the theatre.

Review by Stephen Oliver

Photo: Topher McGrillis
Cast & Creatives:
SCOTT TURNBULL - Ejlert Lövborg

ADAPTOR AND DIRECTOR - Selma Dimitrijevic
TOM PIPER - Set & Costume Designer

LIZZIE POWELL - Lighting Designer

SCOTT TWYNHOLM - Sound Designer and Composer
TORY COPELAND - Assistant Director
REBEKAH BOWSHER - Regional Theatre Young Director's Scheme, Greyscale Placement

Photo: Topher McGrillis
THU 16 FEB - WED 8 MAR, 7.30pm
SAT 4 & TUE 7 MAR, 2pm
WORK performance WED 8 MAR, 6pm

Captioned performance Thu 2 Mar, 7.30pm

British Sign Language performance
Fri 3 Mar, 7.30pm (with interpreted Post-show discussion)
Sat 4 Mar, 7.30pm (with interpreted Post-show discussion)
Tue 7 Mar, 2pm

Touch tour - Sat 4 Mar, 12.30pm

Audio Described performance - Sat 4 Mar, 2pm

Photo: Topher McGrillis
Tue - Fri eves and Sat matinees: £25 | £20.50 | £15.50
Sat eves: £26 | £20.50 | £15.50
Students and Under 21s: £13
You can book your ticket for both Dr Frankenstein and Hedda Gabler for just £30. More info
For full details or to book tickets online see or call the box office on 0191 230 5151.

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes (incl. interval)

Recommended Age: 12+

Post-show Discussion: Fri 3 and Sat 4 March, with BSL interpretation
Wed 8 Mar

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