Nathan Altman, Portrait of Anna Akhmatova, 1915
II-A. HEDDA GABLER: IVO VAN HOVE | NATIONAL THEATRE | 2016
The set is eye-catching: a huge open space, a piano, vases of flowers, a couple of chairs, a sofa/bed; unfinished walls housing a cabinet, Hedda’s gun case, and an intercom screen; sliding glass doors with variable light, hinting at an outside. The actors, unlike in most earlier productions, are the right age for their parts: refreshingly young. They eat steamed noodles, speak a contemporary idiom, and dress in casual elegance; their gestures are familiar, their interrelations easily recognized. The audience chuckles regularly as everything comes together to make—a banal sitcom. Completely deaf to the beating heart of Ibsen’s play—Hedda’s psychosexual dynamics—this version, failing to effectively put forth its alternative reading of the drama, falls flat. Why?
Van Hove was aware of this danger, and to ward it off he accorded Hedda four ‘soliloquies’, four attempts to give us access to her interiority. These take the form of musical interludes, with ‘Blue’, the Joni Mitchell song, providing the music. (A purely instrumental piece would have worked better: when a director has recourse to ‘illustrative’ music, he’s confessing his lack of confidence in his own mise-en-scène: ‘If I can’t show, I will tell’.) In the first interlude, Hedda stands by the window and roughs up the Venetian blind: she’s feeling oppressed, frustrated, confined. In the second, a riot of petals scatters across the floor as she beats a bouquet to smithereens. From each vase she then grabs the flowers and flings them into the void behind her. That done, with quiet deliberation she goes round the room, fixing flowers to the wall with a staple gun: after the bootless rage, an attempt at self-soothing. In the third interlude, Berte and Hedda have a smoke; Hedda’s strained breathing betrays her dark feelings. In the final interlude Hedda, seated on the piano, does a cacophonic hop across the keys: the wild dance tune that heralds her death. As Hedda ‘soliloquies’ these interludes do indeed succeed (though the quadruple playing of ‘Blue’ is overkill from underconfidence). On the whole, however, van Hove’s ‘postmodern realism’ drains Hedda of her interior drama: the creature of fascination and excitement the subtext of the play would have her be is nowhere to be seen. Pity.
II-B. HEDDA GABLER: THOMAS OSTERMEIER | SCHAUBÜHNE (BERLIN) – ZDF | 2006
II-C. HEDDA GABLER: ROMAN POLANSKI | THÉÂTRE MARIGNY (PARIS) | 2003
II-D. HEDDA GABLER: THOMAS LANGHOFF | FERNSEHENS DER DDR (BERLIN) | 1980
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By Richard Jonathan | © Mara Marietta Culture Blog, 2023 | All rights reserved