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.
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.
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.
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.