A thoroughly modern Hedda

Helen Taylor Robison, Carrie Cracknell and Cara Horgan on the set of Hedda

(L-R) Helen Taylor Robinson, Carrie Cracknell and Cara Horgan

Photo: James Royall

Monday 29th September, 2008 | Posted by Caroline Graty

When director Carrie Cracknell and writer Lucy Kirkwood embarked on their reinterpretation of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, they faced an interesting challenge. Ibsen's Hedda was trapped by the conventions of 19th century society, in which women had few options in life other than getting suitably married. Bringing Hedda to 21st century Notting Hill, where women are, arguably, free to make their own life choices, meant that the play’s premise had to shift.

Cracknell says, 'What was interesting for me was the idea that Hedda had opportunity, she had freedom, she could do what she wanted... but that she couldn't grasp that herself. So it becomes a play about a more internal set of limits, and about a woman who is in contrast to the men around her, who all seem to be able to find very strong journeys through life and a sense of purpose.'

This premise put the discussion, the first in Connecting Conversation’s partnership with the Gate theatre, firmly into the realm of psychoanalytic thinking. The speakers - and audience - discussed the development of the characters, their motivations, the thorny issue of Hedda’s sexual appeal and her inability to determine her own destiny.

Helen Taylor Robinson quotes Shakespeare, who, she says, prefigured the psychoanalytic notion of ‘psychic integration’, or the concept of the true and the false self, when he wrote, 'This above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow like the night the day, thou cans’t not then be false to any man.'

‘Our whole life is spent trying to work this one out creatively’, she says.

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