On Centre Stage
Hedda. Review by Douglas Kennedy.
Hedda (a re-imagining of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler) by Melissa Bubnic. Jimi Bani, Bridie Carter, Danielle Cormack, Jason Klarwein, Joss McWilliam, Andrea Moor, Helen O’Leary. Directed by Paige Rattray. Bille Brown Theatre. Queensland Theatre. Season continues until December 8. Running time 100 minutes. Ticketing 1800 355 528. www.queenslandtheatre.com.au
Melissa Bubnic’s re-imagining of Ibsen’s 19th century masterpiece, Hedda Gabler, is a tight, taught and terrific 100 minutes of edge-of-the-seat contemporary theatre.
The playwright’s Hedda has whisked the alpha female into the bosom of a Gold Coast gangster family living in one of the glitter strips unashamed all-white beachside sterile McMansions.
Sophisticated once-upon-a-time elite Melbourne girl, Hedda, (TV’s Wentworth star stunning Danielle Cormack is seductive and scary in the role) has married meth dealer George Tesman (Jason Klarwein).
As the play opens with George’s Aunt Julia (Andrea Moor), seeming to take over the family’s housekeeping duties, Hedda is looking like a trophy wife.
Julia, with some help from family go for Berta (Helen O’Leary), has filled the house with white leather coaches and blingy chandeliers, while Hedda is supposed to look good and do little more than sup endless rounds of Aperol spritz.
When Hedda comes onto the set – designer David Fleischer cleverly minimalistic work as the action takes place in the home’s all-white entertainment area – she’s musing on starting her own legitimate business and pooh-poohing Julie’s interior contributions.
But the honeymoon is over and this is George’s evil empire – with a little guidance from Aunt Julia – and Hedda is quickly slapped down and told to get back in her box.
Throw into the mix recovering ice addict Ejlert (Jimi Bani fresh from his hit show My Name Jimi), his equally vulnerable girlfriend Theo (Bridie Carter) and corrupt councilor Brack (Joss McWilliam) and you have a recipe for Underbelly Gold Coast-style.
However, if anyone thinks Hedda is going to take this ‘trophy wives should be seen and not heard’ stuff seriously they have totally underestimated this whippet.
As Hedda unfolds and morphs into a shattering force of nature in a quick-fire delivery of gangster family life, including domestic violence, spitfire language and gun totting intimidation, the audience is held spell bound.
The momentum keep up as events move towards their unimaginable conclusion and it becomes clear that the Metoo movement has reached the gangster world, even on the conservative Gold Coast.
The seven-strong cast, under the direction of Paige Rattray, give whip-cracker performances at the refurbished Bille Brown Theatre and the creative team’s contribution is equally impressive.
The Queensland Theatre is ending its 2018 season on a power-packed state-of-the-art high in what can only be discovered as one of the best offering in a first class year.