Hedda Gabler

November 2001

by Henrik Ibsen, directed by John Marshall


Jorgen Tesman, a cultural historian - Robert Hole

Hedda Tesman, ne Hedda Gabler, his wife - Helen Turner

Miss Julia Tesman, his aunt - Margaret Butt

Mrs Elvsted - Tini Kay

Brack, a circuit judge - Gordon Halliday

Ejlert Lovberg - Roger Matthewson

Berta, the maid - Sheila Wall

Production Team:

Director - John Marshall

Assistant Director - Gordon Halliday

Lighting - Stuart Yerrell

Sound - Ron Murray

Set Design - Philip Keen

Costumes - Isla Morgan

Props - Rose Gander & Mary Collins

Prompt - Jean Halliday & Jacqueline Kaven

Front of House - Margaret Yerrell

Publicity - Bryan Stephenson & Gordon Halliday

Posters and Banners - Philip Keen

Programme - Margaret Butt, Philip Keen & Cass Thorne


From Estuary News:

... Helen Turner as Hedda Gabler ... took hold of this part with both hands ...

Ibsen's powerful play shows how the social conventions of his time restricted the opportunities for a stifled, well-born woman to express herself. She dreams of adventure and wants to influence others to live dangerously and when her scheme backfires, she cannot endure the consequences. Is her final act one of cowardice or defiance? The director, John Marshall, loved this play - which one must to take on such a demanding piece - but his decision to do so, I believe, was right!

Praise is due for Philip Keen's set design and construction: the stage was broodingly magnificent in deep red and suitably dressed with opulent furniture. The opening evocative music, redolent of the past, permeated the stuffy Scandinavian gloom. When the window curtains were pulled, strong sunlight streamed through, emphasising the heavily expectant scene - and the play had begun!

Berta, the maid, played by Sheila Wall, admirably carried out Ibsen's 'servant's role' in the introduction of his characters and we meet Maggie Butt's doting Aunt Juju. I would have preferred a dowdier colour for her first costume, which would have shown off better her horrendously watchable headgear! Her carefully constructed performance showed clearly her smothering love for her nephew and the yearning for family contact to give her a meaning in life.

Jorgen Tesman, the nephew in question was played by Rob Hole, who is my sort of actor. Happily comfortable in every role, beautifully dressed this evening - down to the gold-rimmed spectacles - portrayed an immature and bumbling academic rather in the style of a Norwegian Rumpole, coping with all aspects of his character with equal ease and even looked eminently capable of writing a book with the stupefying title Domestic Crafts of the 14th Century!

Tini Kay, as the tremulous Mrs Elvsted, looked ravishing in her chaste white dress and every inch the unhappy Scandinavian wife who would fall for an unstable and brilliant writer, her accent seeming exactly right for this part. I was not so sure about her second costume, however - a revealing gown covered in roses, which did match those on the set but seemed at odds with her character.

Helen Turner as Hedda Gabler is not perhaps whom one would think of at first as a typical Ibsen heroine - blonde instead of brunette, gentle rather than feisty - but I have seen Helen grow in stature as an actress in recent years and she took hold of this part with both hands and became a calculating stage villainess, stalking the stage like a predatory spider. I loved the scene where the black-costumed Hedda sat side-by-side on the sofa with Mrs Elvsted in her snow-white gown, inextricably drawing the weaker woman into her dangerous web.

Are we not fortunate to have an actor of Gordon Halliday's ability to take over the part of Judge Brack at such notice and who was able give, as always, a memorable and impressive performance - this time, of the suavely sinister judge - whilst carrying a diary containing his script!

Roger Matthewson as Eilert Lovberg, in complete contrast to his previous role as Arturo Ui, skilfully portrayed his unstable genius and the desolate face of love, finally becoming putty in the hands of the scheming Hedda.

There were some very nice touches: the light in the stove reflecting on Hedda's face as she burns Eilert's unpublished work with malevolent relish, and all the business with the pistol, often difficult, which was handled in a professional and dramatic manner. Two things regarding the stage rather concerned me: the first was the dining chair set centrally which seemed to block movement up and down stage, particularly for the wide-skirted cast members and might have been better tucked under the table and pulled out when necessary, and secondly the very restricted entrance upstage right - moving the flat just another foot would have given the opportunity for imperious rather than sidelong entrances.

These are very minor quibbles, however, and I congratulate John Marshall, his team, and all the cast for this talented production and for giving us such a thought-provoking and satisfying way to spend a November evening.

We were devastated to hear of John Palmer's accident on his way home from a recent rehearsal and all wish him a speedy recovery. Thursday's performance in particular was dedicated to John. I am sure, however, that he will be fit and ready for the exciting plays to be seen during the next season - which will be the Estuary Player's 24th Anniversary year.

- Reviewed by: Holly Shakespeare