"Compelling interpretation of Ibsen’s inevitabilities"
by Tim Mottershead for remotegoat on 29/03/14

Like Ibsen’s more frequently performed ‘A Doll’s House’, this play also centres on a strong central female character, in this case Hedda Gabler (the use of her pre-marriage name throughout is noteworthy) whose determination to provide her life with real meaning, and fulfil her destiny, is the engine which drives the action forward. Yet every action, however well-meaning, always has a corresponding reaction, and even a character as strong and so apparently sure of herself as Hedda can misread a situation, with sometimes profound and far-reaching consequences.

Alice Bonifacio delivered such a mesmerizing portrayal of Hedda, that it was immediately apparent why the other characters should be so totally in thrall to her. Indeed it would not be too fanciful to describe her presence as being like a vortex into which the others were irresistibly drawn. Although Hedda exerts influence over the other main female character in the play Thea Elvstead (Holly Piper) whose association with Eilert Loevborg she seeks to undermine; the principal focus is on the men within her sphere of influence. The man with whom Hedda most obviously identifies is Loevborg himself – who received a powerful and commanding performance from David Sayers.

David Martin (fresh in the mind of Buxton Opera House patrons from his role as Iago in ‘Othello’) showed what an accomplished actor he is, with a near-perfect characterization of Hedda’s new husband, the kindly, bumbling, family orientated - and of course fatally parochial - George Tesman. Reliable rather than exciting, he is in his element when fussing over his Aunt Ju-Ju (a small yet important role for Deborah Klayman) although his finest hour is when he selflessly rises to the challenge of knowingly helping a rival. Yet whilst he is concerned to provide materially for new wife, he is oblivious to her real needs, and despite Hedda’s obvious strength of character, this vulnerability is detected Judge Brack, in a suitably cool performance by Julian Pindar (a role shared on alternate nights with Gary Stoner, also recently seen at Buxton as Othello). Here we are at the heart of one of Ibsen’s main themes: the inner turmoil which lies behind the apparently contented façade. Having detected her vulnerability Judge Brack now simply awaits the opportunity to exploit it to his own advantage.

Once again Icarus theatre’s sets were superbly imaginative, with three differently coloured rooms on three levels of elevation, surrounding a central living room with stove at ground level. Benjamin Blaine Hawkins as servant to the Tesman residence completed the talented cast, who delivered a compelling interpretation to the inevitabilities of Ibsen’s complex plot. This is a play that should be seen by all.

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