Hedda Gabler – NT Live & Talk
Hedda Gabler may be the most performed work by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, who ranks along side Shakespeare as one of the world’s greatest playwrights. Considered radical and often disgraceful in the late 19th century, plays like A Doll’s House (1879), Ghosts (1881), The Wild Duck (1884), Hedda Gabler (1890), and The Master Builder (1892) pretty much invented modern drama and predicted the 20th and (so far) 21st centuries. A Doll’s House notoriously ends with Nora Helmer, a once happy wife and mother, slamming the door on her husband to find her own identity. Hedda Gabler, cautious in love and fearful of gossip, scandalizes her husband Tesman and nemesis Judge Brack with her own self-determining act. (“But good God! People don’t do such things!”) Hedda’s passionate intelligence and witty malice have attracted great actors to the role for more than 125 years. She has been called Ibsen’s Hamlet or Lear, but she may also be a deeply frustrated Rosalind or Isabella.
Professor Brucher’s introduction to the NTLive’s streaming of Hedda Gabler will discuss what makes Ibsen a brilliant and inspiring innovator in theatre, and where Hedda Gabler fits in his great 12-play cycle of realistic-poetic prose plays. The talk will define several problems in interpretation that the play poses, particularly regarding Hedda’s acerbic, malicious, and principled resistance to stifling social, moral, and economic conventions. Although attracted to a bohemian life, she has married down to an ambitious but obtuse professor. (“Can you imagine!”) This contemporary Hedda Gabler is staged by Ivo van Hove, one of the most provocative directors working today. His last production streamed to the CCA—of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge in 2015—was astounding. This Hedda uses a new adaptation by British playwright Patrick Marber. (Quotations are from Rolf Fjelde’s American translation of 1965.)