Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Stylishly compelling Ibsen.....

Hedda Gabler

Welsh College of Music and Drama , Caird Studio Theatre , March-21-01
I have a vision of the director and cast of this piece sitting down and painstakingly fire proofing all the fabric of the set by hand. Such was the attention to detail in this stylish and compelling production.

The Caird Studio is a black breeze blocked rectangle at the top of the Welsh College. As I walked in the pre lit set was already elegantly setting the atmosphere of the play with some well though out design elements such as the very large shadowy portrait, the ubiquitous 19th century Scandinavian stove and good use a small room at the back of the stage.

This is of course a well-crafted and beautiful written play, the spirit of which was strongly reflected in Martin Houghton's sure and sensitive direction. He was well supported by the design team of Julia Challis-set, ZoŽ Price-costume, Diana Prentice-lighting and David Abra-sound. All these element fused together to produce a compelling opening to the play.

Each member of the cast so carefully captured the essence of the characters they were playing and expressed this well through voice and gesture. Each character was equally well served by the imaginatively way in which they were clothed which also underpinned their personalities.

Leila Crerar as Hedda was very much a young woman of our time, though she was no way out of place in the setting of the play. Her vigorous playing in the earlier parts of the play gave no hint of the vulnerability and isolation that would emerge at the end.

Vulnerability was also a strong point in Mark Winstanley's performance as Jorgen but equally strongly he showed us his passion for his work and the great joy he obtained from his love and caring for Hedda. Ironic that this should be a major contribution to her taking her own life at the end of the play.

"Ibsen always denied the label of 'feminist' His most important characters are women who are trapped in a web of pressures and expectations that keep them from fully realising who they are." Along with Hedda, in Brawen Davies's Julia and Elen Gwynne's Mrs Elvsted we saw women trapped in the lives of the people that they lived for.

Wayne Leonard's Brack was exciting to watch and his slight throaty Welsh accent fitted well into the music of the play. In the part of Berta the maid Aishling Howard's clear eyes absorbing all that was going on before her also added to the atmosphere of this jewel of a production. That students, though there was an understandable imatureness in some of the voices, were able to convey such understanding of life they have yet to find was a mark of the firm hand of director Martin Houghton.

With Oscar Wilde's "An Ideal Husband" across the road at the New Theatre following on the heels of Theatre Clwyd Cymru's "King Lear" classical theatre is alive and thriving in Cardiff

"The Threesome", "Cegin Y Diafol", The Taming of the Shrew", Whale Music, Hedda Gabler, "City of Angels" - a musical, with all these titles in its current season and its advertising its work to a wider public The Welsh College of Music and Drama goes some way to making up for the lack of a producing lyric repertory theatre in Cardiff. Something that all other major towns and cities in the rest of the UK strongly support. After my review of "King Lear" Phil Clark (now ten years at the Sherman) was quick to point out to me that his is a producing theatre. Can I recommend to him and to the 'new' Art's Council of Wales that they explore the road toward a repertory theatre.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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