Taking a 13-year-old to see Hedda Gabler was always going to be a gamble. We were going to the Abbey, so I knew I’d probably be happy – and I was. Very. But what about her? The most “retro” thing she’s been entertained by recently is some box sets of the Gilmore Girls! How will a 21st Century child react to Ibsen’s 19th Century constraints, albeit without some of the linguistic constraints, thanks to the deft hand of Mark O’Rowe?
She was bewitched. She was bothered, besotted., and a little bewildered, too. She left with more questions than answers, and f that isn’t the mark of great theatre, well…
Catherine Walker is superb as the manipulative but ultimately tragic Hedda . She whirls the entire cast around her vortex of smiling hysteria like moths to a flame. And they respond on command. This level of ensemble interaction is a pleasure to watch and Declan Conlon’s manipulative and cynical Judge Brack is flawless. But what did the teenager think?
“She’s so dangerous!” gushed the fruit of my loins. “ She’s such a piece of work, but why did I feel sorry for her in the end?“
Why indeed. We’ve been asking the same question of ourselves for generations, which is why Ibsen’s great works have remained so perennial and so contemporary. Mark O’Rowe’s adaptation has retained all of the integrity of the original script and the techies have managed to reconstruct Hedda’s noisy claustrophobia and panic beautifully. It’s a triumph.
But what about the teenager?
“Well!” she exclaimed. “I’ve seen people playing head-games before. Really bad ones. But I never saw anything like her. She should be called Header Gabler!”
And that, reader, is my insightful daughter’s synopsis of this great play and The Abbey’s great cast. Our of the mouths of babes…