IT’S SPRING time, and that means the KATS - the Knocknacarra Amateur Theatre Society - are on the prowl again! To start off a new decade, the award-winning drama group are taking something old (125 years old, in fact ) and modernising it.
For their eighth festival production, KAT’s director Frank Commins has chosen John Osborne's adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen classic, Hedda Gabler.
Hedda Gabler was originally published by the Norwegian writer in 1890, and, since its first production the following year, has gained recognition as a classic.
The main character, Hedda Gabler, has been hailed as one of the great roles in theatre - “the female Hamlet” - but this play is just as much about the people and the social influences that surround her, and no one has recognised this more than John Osborne, who wrote this adaptation in 1972.
It was written at a time of much personal turmoil in Osborne’s life: his relationship with his fourth wife Jill Bennett was breaking down, drama critics were writing him off as a ‘has-been’, and his confidence was at a low ebb. In Hedda Gabler he is sure to have identified many parallels between the Norwegian heroine of the 1890s and some of his own infamous traits of bad behaviour and devastating wit.
In general, as with all great classics, the themes endure and are just as relevant today are they were more than a century ago. Indeed it is remarkable how such a classic of its time can be modernised so seamlessly and so effectively to the present day.
This production promises to be a powerful piece of theatre. Every line is loaded with humour, cruelty, passion, pathos. Everything of great theatre can be found in Hedda Gabler, and the KATS cast and crew have been pursuing it for the past several weeks.
“I first came across the play when I was doing a theatre diploma in Maynooth,” Frank Commins reveals. “I found it a particularly interesting play and so decided to do it this year. I had numerous adaptations of the play by writers like Frank McGuinness, Christopher Hampton, etc, but what I liked about John Osborne’s version is that it is very gritty. It’s very down to earth, the language isn’t chunky. Ibsen hasn’t always translated very well into English, sometimes they can be very chunky but I really liked the way the Osborne adaptation flowed.”
Commins goes on to offer his observations on the character of Hedda and the other protagonists in the play.
“In a way it is an injustice that the play is named after Hedda because her actions are all influenced by the actions of the other characters around her,” he notes. “They all add something that ends up driving Hedda over the edge. So the play is more about what they do than what Hedda does.
“She’s a product of their actions. I reckon she is a victim of circumstance. She’s a tragic victim but she chooses to go down that road despite numerous opportunities to do otherwise.
“The other main female character in the play, Mrs Elvsted, makes difficult choices; she leaves her husband to be with her lover, when he commits suicide she takes the surviving notes of his book and helps reconstruct it. She is a survivor no matter what life throws at her. She builds a life for herself whereas with Hedda, if things aren’t going her way, she goes ‘That’s it, I’m killing myself’.”
Though it’s more than a century old, Commins argues that the play’s relevance is undiminished.
“The play is just as relevant today,” he says. “Human nature hasn’t changed since 1890. Hedda Gabler is partly about the fear of scandal and we have seen that in recent headlines about the likes of Tiger Woods and John Terry.”
Commins argues that an essential pre-requirement is having a fine cast and KATS production of Hedda Gabler features Patricia Creaven in the title role. Also featured are Miriam Petit (Thea Elvsted ), Colm Cannlon (Hedda’s husband Tesman ), Lorcan Mannion (Tesman’s rival, Lovborg ), Padraig McDonagh (Judge Brack ), Marie Forde (Aunty Juju ), and Sinead Keaveney (the servant Bertha ).
Hedda Gabler runs at the Town Hall Theatre from Wednesday 24 to Friday 26 at 8pm. Tickets €18/€15 and available from 091 - 569777.