BreakaLeg Productions             .
An Abingdon, Oxfordshire, Drama Group
Hedda Gabler
NODA Review
By Henrik Ibsen          .

Many thanks to Deidre Jones for the kind invitation to review the classic Ibsen play Hedda Gabler - the latest presentation from BreakaLeg Productions.

In the beautiful setting of the ancient Unicorn Theatre in Abingdon this was the perfect venue to bring this thought-provoking masterpiece to life.


On my arrival it was nice to be greeted by old friends and make new acquaintances having been a performer and director in this intimate and enchanting little theatre on many occasions over the years.


The Production

Moving into the auditorium the small open stage was dressed with period furniture and some atmospheric lighting effects from a very convincing looking ‘wood burning’ stove gave the set a very homely and comfortable feeling. The rather restricted stage of the Unicorn is not the easiest of spaces to adapt but the scenery by Mike Davis had certainly been well designed and made good use of every inch. I liked the anti-room towards the rear of the stage with a large lace curtain acting as a ‘wall’ but, with the use of different lighting effects, also acting as a gauze enabling the audience to see into the room. This I thought was most effective. French doors, upstage right leading to a garden were also a nice touch. In fact the thoughtful dressing of the set and the positioning and layout of the scenery made the playing area appear to be quite sizable.  Congratulations!


The costumes were first class and really looked in period as did the restrained make-up and the wigs worn by some of the characters which were also very good. Unfortunately the costumes, hair and make-up were not accredited in the programme to a specific individual but none-the-less congratulations to those responsible.


Reg Berry’s simple lighting plot gave suitable atmosphere to the production and Peter Bradley’s interlude music provided excellent links between acts and scenes.


The Cast


Viv Beckett was on excellent form as the scheming and manipulative Hedda. She used the stage well and conveyed the characteristics of this complex woman to great effect. Always a joy to watch this versatile and talented actress interacted convincingly with her fellow players and her projection and diction was very good.


Jim Cotterell captured the character of her rather meek and compliant husband, George, to great effect. The interactions between George and Hedda were very well handled. Jim used the stage effectively and his diction was very good. One almost felt sorry for him in the way he was being treated by his newly wed wife. A convincing portrayal.


I really liked Sarah Enticknap’s interpretation of George’s maiden aunt Miss Juliana. She captured the air of superiority of one who thinks she is ‘in the know’ but actually isn’t to good effect.  Sarah used the stage well and looked suitably haughty in the well-chosen costume. Projection and diction were again first class.

Mrs. Elvsted - Hedda’s former school friend and at who’s hand she was unmercifully bullied was played sensitively by Rebecca Cleverly. This was a secure and convincingly accurate portrayal of a woman trying to forget her unpleasant school days and at the same time using her past friendship with her tormentor for her own ends. Rebecca used the playing area to good effect and projected well.


Paul Barrand gave a strong and believable performance as the scheming and devious Judge Brack. This was a thoughtful characterisation with subtle menace always lurking just below the surface and portrayed well through tone of voice and body language. Again, Paul’s diction and projection were very good.


David Fardon gave an under-stated and subtle performance as the brilliant yet tormented academic Eilert Lovborg. David has a powerful presence on stage and his speaking voice is very clear. He used the stage well and interacted well with the other players. His exchanges with Hedda for whom we learn he still has feelings were very well observed.


Completing this formidable cast line-up was Mirja Boyd as the faithful and willing servant, Berta. Mirja played this role beautifully, always in character and with just the right amount of deference to her employers. Well done!


I often have to comment unfortunately in a negative way about diction and projection which is so very important from an audience perspective. This was very much not the case with this production. It was a joy to be able to hear and understand every single word with such clarity - so congratulations to you all.


The Director

Director, Deidre Jones had assembled a talented cast for this complex and wordy production. The pace never flagged and the stage was used to good effect - entrances and exits being executed smoothly and unobtrusively. There were some very believable performances and much thought had obviously gone into the interpretation of the very different and complex characters. Congratulations!


Finally, the programme was informative and interesting with some excellent rehearsal photographs and cast biographies.  It was also very gratifying to see BreakaLeg’s NODA achievements proudly included also.


It just remains for me to say thank you to all concerned with this very polished and entertaining production and to wish BreakaLeg Productions every success with their next endeavour.


Best wishes,

Rob Bertwistle


Regional Representative

District   12

NODA London