Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hedda's First Impressions

The protagonist of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler agrees to an unsuitable marriage, then destroys everyone in her path trying to get out. The premiere in 1891 was met with hostility by the critics who failed to understand Hedda's behaviour. Their sometimes hysterical responses mirrored a line in the play: "People don't do such things,"

Ibsen scholar Michael Meyer found insight in Gerhard Gran's review for Samtiden:

Gran: “It is a law, or anyway has until now been a law, that drama, in its present state of technical development, can only present comparatively simple characters… Everything that should make this curious being intelligible to us, her development, her secret thoughts, her half-sensed misgivings and all that vast region of the human mind which lies between the conscious and the unconscious – all this the dramatist can no more than indicate. For this reason, I think a novel about Hedda Gabler could be extremely interesting, while the play leaves us with a sense of emptiness and betrayal."
Meyer: "Gran’s remarks explain why people who accepted Emma Bovary, Anna Karenina and Dorothea Brooke wre baffled by [Ibsen's heroines] Ellida Wangel, Rebecca West and Hedda Gabler. Neither actors nor audiences, nor even those who bought the play in book form, were able to read between the lines of dialogue as we can today."

One of Ibsen's worst reviewed works went on to become his most produced among new generations of actors and audiences who wanted to "read between the lines."

I'll be hosting the panel on Ibsen's Women this Sunday, May 10 after the 2pm matinee.

Raven Theatre's Hedda Gabler runs May 3 - June 27, 2009

Red Tape Theatre's Enemy of the People runs May 4-30, 2009.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

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