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Hedda comes to Mumbai

Hedda comes to Mumbai
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First Published: Wed, Jun 16 2010. 10 12 PM IST

A still from Hedda Gabler. Picture: Venkatesh L. and Sneha Kar
A still from Hedda Gabler. Picture: Venkatesh L. and Sneha Kar
Updated: Wed, Jun 16 2010. 10 12 PM IST
“Yes, courage... if only one had that... then maybe life would be tolerable, after all...”
—Hedda Gabler.
A still from Hedda Gabler. Picture: Venkatesh L. and Sneha Kar
Written in 1890, Hedda Gabler is considered to be the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s greatest play. Enigmatic, headstrong and manipulative, Hedda Gabler is one of the modern theatre’s most iconic figures.
A group of Mumbai-based thespians and television actors, who call themselves The Company Theatre, are in unison with Hedda’s famous quote on courage: They’re putting up a collaborative production of this complex play. No director has been credited.
The play has already run in Bangalore in February and will show in two venues in Mumbai over the next few weeks (Prithvi Theatre and NCPA). The two-and-a-half-hour-long English play is being presented by the Gomber Education Foundation.
The play is set in the Norway of the late 19th century. The story revolves around Hedda, who, returning from her honeymoon already desperately bored with her marriage to George Tesman, an aspiring professor, begins plotting against the brilliant Eilert Lovborg, an old admirer of hers and a rival of her husband’s. Slowly, she begins to find herself drawn into the clutches of the predatory Judge Brack, who is keen on establishing a ménage à trois.
Often referred to as the “Female Hamlet” because of the nature of her role, Hedda has struck a chord with audiences in the 100 years it has been performed. The play premiered in 1891 in Germany to negative reviews, but has subsequently gained recognition as a classic treatise on 19th century theatre.
A still from Hedda Gabler. Picture: Venkatesh L. and Sneha Kar
Different theatrical productions take different approaches to Hedda: a heroine, a villain, a victim and so forth. This production is based on a translation by Christopher Hampton, but the team has culled parts from other interpretative versions as well, making this production somewhat multi-layered. Actor Sheeba Chadha plays the title role of the fiery Hedda and actor and director Neeraj Kabi plays the role of George, her academically inclined husband. Other notable actors such as Denzil Smith, Samar Sarila, Tillotama Shome, Shipra Singh and Veera Abadan are part of the cast as well.
Chadha says that this multi-text version made for a challenging and complex role. “I can’t pick any one definition for what stance this play takes,” she says. Her co-actor, Kabi, agrees. But for him, the play is primarily a tragic love story. “The entire play is essentially (George’s) last 36 hours with Hedda (she commits suicide at the end of the play).
After its runs in Mumbai, the play will travel to Delhi and other cities. Chadha has big shoes to fill. Popular actors such as Eleanora Duse, Alla Nazimova, Eva Le Gallienne and the inimitable Ingrid Bergman have played Hedda on screen. Others that have played Hedda on stage include Harriet Walter and Cate Blanchett.
Hedda Gabler will run on 18-19 June at Prithvi Theatre, Juhu, and 3-4 July, at NCPA, Mumbai. Tickets are available online at www.bookmyshow.com.
anindita.g@livemint.com
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First Published: Wed, Jun 16 2010. 10 12 PM IST