United Players

Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen

When & Where March 24-April 16, 2023 Thurs-Sat evenings at 8pm, Sunday matinees at 2pm | Jericho Arts Centre

Director Moya O'Connell Technical Director Michael Methot Set Design Emily Dotson Costume Design Julie White Sound Design Torquil Campbell Lighting Design Mark Carter Props Design Josina de Bree Stage Managment Finnley O'Brien

Reviewer John Jane

Set in roughly the time it was written, in Oslo, Norway (at the time known as Kristiania), this United Players production is a period appropriate version of Henrik Ibsen’s drawing room drama Hedda Gabler. Under Moya O'Connell’s superb direction, Hayley Sullivan’s nuanced portrayal gives Hedda more scope than just the reluctant socialite with a bad attitude. Ms. Sullivan instils subtle malevolence to Ibsen’s enigmatic heroine.
Hayley Sullivan & Nick Rempel
Photo: Nancy Caldwell

Ms. O'Connell also provides us with a group of identifiable, if not particularly likable, human beings. Ayush Chhabra commits totally to the role of Hedda’s dysfunctional new husband Jorgen Tesmen who is prepared to give his wife anything to make her happy, except what she really wants – turmoil.

Hedda’s former schoolmate Thea Elvsted is played with passive self assurance by Lola Claire. Thea has also been trapped in a loveless marriage, but unlike Hedda, has had the will to break free and follow her paramour Ejlert Lovborg (Victor Ayla) to where the Tesmens live.

Nick Rempel brings his stage know-how to the role of the domineering Judge Brack. Rempel certainly seems to understand the character detail in the tactless and injudicious Brack who unsuccessfully attempts to control Hedda. The cast is rounded out with Nicky Anderton as Aunt Julie and Penny Handford as the Tesmen’s maid.

Emily Dotson’s split-level set takes up the entire stage area that consists of a tastefully furnished drawing room with a backstage higher level music room. The out of tune piano becomes a motif for Hedda’s desperation. Julie White’s elegant clothing is evocative of time and place for late nineteenth century Northern Europe.

It’s perhaps a tribute to Henrik Ibsen’s pièce de theatre that so many film adaptations and alternative productions have been made of Hedda Gabler. Thankfully this production was pretty much faithful to the original.

© 2023 John Jane