It’s been another stellar season for Queensland Theatre and with their final offering for 2018- Hedda they end the season with a bang! The Ibsen classic- Hedda Gabler has been re- imagined in a unique and contemporary way by playwright Melissa Bubnic and an A- list ensemble of Australian and New Zealand stars shine under the capable direction of Paige Rattray. SheSociety were invited to Opening Night of this modern classic and were so excited to be given prime seats directly in the front row, right on the stage.
The excitement was only heightened when I met the Queensland Theatre competition winners sitting next to me. They’d enjoyed a pampering at Emporium before the play, scored front row seats and an invitation to mingle with the stars at the after party, plus an overnight stay in the nearby Spice Apartments. The lucky winners had both been friends since studying drama themselves a few years ago and this was their first experience of an Opening Night at the newly refurbished Bille Brown Theatre. They could not believe their luck. Priceless!
The energy on the stage before us was palpable and to be so up close and personal to actors of the calibre of Danielle Cormack and Bridie Carter was a bucket list moment in itself.
Although Hedda is loosely based on the play -Hedda Gabler, it is truly a new play in its own right. The transplantation of the setting to the Gold Coast is a brilliant touch. It allows for glitz and glamour with an underlying underbelly of violence, gangster alliances, class struggles, family drama and the theme of the changing role of women in today’s society.
It’s a play about power and perception, relationships and relatives and the cruel agendas that are sometimes lying just below the surface of our human experience. Have I mentioned it is also wickedly funny? By poking fun at our uniquely Queensland ways, the writer ensured there were many laugh out loud moments before the play became more mysterious, dark and dangerous.
Ultimately this play details the life of one woman- Hedda. Hedda Gabler is railing against her life. This whip smart and well heeled Melburnian, from one of the old money families, is bored. She’s living life in a monstrosity of a Gold Coast mansion with her bogan drug slinger husband George Tesman and yet she wants more. She wants power. She wants to win back the respect of the men in her life and be a true partner in every sense of the word. Hedda feels like a stranger in her own home.
Excitement comes in the form of ex- lover Ejlert Lovborg who is recently out of prison and off the drugs. Is he about to slice of a piece of George’s empire and how will this work to her advantage? The beautiful and manipulative Hedda has her own agenda and we wonder how far will she go to re-write their shared stories.
This is an A- list cast beginning with our female lead- Hedda, played by Logie award winning Danielle Cormack. Her impressive list of roles and acting credentials still doesn’t prepare you for her on- stage presence, which she built upon from the very beginning, slowly revealing the real character of the many layered Hedda. At times her performance was almost feline, pacing like a sleek caged black panther, feasting greedily, before stretching like a big cat in her den. Danielle was mesmerising in this stand -out performance.
Bridie Carter owns her role as bohemian -Thea Elvstead. Thea is angelic yet flawed. Her beautiful nature and unswerving belief in the goodness to be found in all humans brought me to tears.
Then there was Queensland acting royalty – Andrea Moor. Forgive me Andrea, I was waiting for you to come onstage, when there you were right in front of me playing the cashed up bogan- Aunt Julia to perfection. Even one of Andrea’s acting students told me after the play that she had to check the program to see if it were really her. What a chameleon, giving us all a masterclass in acting.
Queensland Theatre stalwart Jason Klarwein played the role of George Tesman with equal parts menace and naivety and ensured the audience’s attention was captured every time he appeared on stage. Jimi Bani who you’ll remember from ‘ My Name Is Jimi’ managed to break his nice guy mould, showing the audience the depth of his talent.
Joss McWilliam played the creepy Councillor Black with slimy menace and Helen O’Leary was hilarious and endearing in equal measure as the diminutive, yet strong Berta.
This is a cracker of a play, sizzling with sexy scenes, dark humour and an underlying vein of violence and pain. You will see hidden parts of yourself on display and the humanity shown peels back the civilised layers we all wear and exposes the hidden depths of our very human existence. It was a privilege for me to witness some of the masters of Australian acting in such an intimate space. I laughed, gasped, cried and held my breath in fear. To see Ibsen’s fiercest leading lady land poolside on the Gold Coast head along to the Bille Brown Theatre. Hedda runs until the 8th December.