The talented cast of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler came up with strong performances
Just Theatre's production of Henrik Ibsen's groundbreaking play “Hedda Gabler”, which began with an interesting stage design - a line of stools behind the centre of action with all the non-players as on-lookers - would not get any more interesting than this, in terms of doing something new, despite its strong performances.
Even the green spotlight on the actors outside the marked territory of the living room, only worked the first time Hedda (Sheeba Chadha) in her flowing white robes stood there, her stance inciting curiosity and intimidation at the same time.
After the first few scenes, this device lost its intent – if it was to pre-empt a character's entry or to denote their presence despite their physical absence in the scene. Until, of course, it was used in the very end of the play.
The actors using the stage area to change and being involved in changing the simple, yet effective set around, also had only a minute bearing on the overall feeling one was left with after the play: What was it that made this production of “Hedda Gabler” different from any other?
The use of adaptation is not so much about indianising a play as it is to allow for a different register.
In that sense, with their period costumes and forced accents, the talented cast would have certainly have been able to deliver less restricted performances, if it was not for the formalism.
With the play a little over two hours (with a ten-minute interval), it got heavy and staid as it lingered on. However, there was little doubt that the performances were strong.
The role of Hedda Gabler is a coveted one. Hedda's truly neurotic nature, her seemingly strong but staunchly feminist female character, whose conflicts and illogical, random acts are propelled by her profound boredom with life, lends itself to an intense emotional graph for an actor to journey through. Sheeba Chaddha's portrayal of the female protagonist was done with ease, and panache.
The part-crazy and part-sadistic Hedda, is revolted by her own marriage to Jørgen Tesman, the academic, played by Neeraj Kabi. He did a good job of the naïve, almost childish, academic, going out on a limb to please his wife.
Veera Abadan, who was the loving aunt Juliane Tesman, her worries about getting along with Hedda, and her class-anxieties, played her role effortlessly.
Both Judge Brack and Eilert Luvborg, played by Denzil Smith and Samar Sarila respectively were steady performances. Luvborg's performance, in fact, got better as the play progressed – from overly impassioned in the beginning he turned pathetic who dies an “un-beautiful” death, in the words of Hedda.
The soundscape by Naren Chandravarkar was sparse and did not at any point distract, while the lights by Sujay Saple were efficiently designed.
Hedda Gabler premiered at Rangashankara.