Hedda Gabler is railing against her life. She didn’t marry drug slinger George Tesman so she could play housewife in a monstrous Gold Coast mansion with white leather couches, blingy chandeliers and endless rounds of Aperol Spritz.
She wants something much more and now her old flame, Ejlert Løvborg, is out of prison and off the junk. Is he about to slice off a piece of George’s empire? Maybe Hedda can pull some strings to work this to her advantage.
Hedda showcases a triumvirate of incredibly talented women including Logie Award-winning actor Danielle Cormack (Wentworth, Rake) – an actor with the power and sense of danger you need to tackle one of drama’s greatest heroines.
Playwright Melissa Bubnic has the wicked turn of phrase and pitch black humour to wrench a 19th century classic into the here and now, as director Paige Rattray has an ability to unleash performances that become seared into memory. Throw in a stellar cast and Hedda promises to be a must-see event of 2018.
The story is brought to life by a collective of Australia’s great stage and screen talent – Jimi Bani returns to Queensland Theatre fresh from the critically acclaimed My Life is Jimi national tour, Helpmann-nominated stage powerhouse Jason Klarwein was last applauded in Twelfth Night, and Joss McWilliam brings over 30 years of experience in standout roles.
NIDA graduate and leading actor Bridie Carter (McLeod’s Daughters) makes her debut with Queensland Theatre, while multi-award nominated Helen O’Leary (Packed to the Rafters, The Strip) also debuts with Queensland Theatre. Completing the casting coup is nationally celebrated actor-director, and Queensland Theatre audience favourite, Andrea Moor.
Returning to Australia for the opening, London-based playwright Melissa Bubnic said her adaption of Hedda had been two years in development with Queensland Theatre. She explains the reason for making the George Tesman character a drug slinger.
“I didn’t feel that academics arguing over the meaning of life and losing a manuscript felt inherently dramatic to me for today’s audience,” said Bubnic. “Drugs, violence, death – all of that felt immediately higher stakes. This is a world where if you make a dud move, the consequences can be catastrophic.”
“And Hedda is completely unapologetically self-serving. She’s after what she wants and everyone else is collateral. She doesn’t have the ennui, restlessness, longing for beauty of the original Hedda. My Hedda is a woman on a mission.”
Director Paige Rattray has directed two of Queensland Theatre’s most powerful stage productions in Black is the New White and Scenes from a Marriage, and said Ibsen was a radical thinker in his time and Melissa Bubnic’s reimagining equally as radical for now.
“We were interested in taking one of the ‘great’ female roles and tipping the idea of the tragic female lead on its head,” said Rattray. “Our Hedda isn’t a bored housewife. She’s a woman with a huge amount of agency who wants to rebuild the family name and be autonomous, and she will do anything to make that happen.’
“She’s bold and brutal and takes no prisoners. It’s set on the modern-day Gold Coast; the family business is drugs and property development. It’s a very high stakes world.”
Melissa Bubnic is a writer for stage and screen. Her play Boys Will Be Boys premiered by Sydney Theatre Company in 2015 and has gone on to be performed at The Bush Theatre London. Beached won the 2010 Sydney Theatre Company’s Patrick White Award and was nominated for a 2013 Green Room Award. (Beached premiered at the MTC and was staged at Griffin Theatre Company in 2013).
Bubnic adapted Mariage Blanc by Tadeusz Ró?ewicz for Sydney Theatre Company, co-wrote Hazel Curtis: Fear Doctor with Petra Kalive and wrote Shedding for La Mama, and Citizen Corps for Platform Youth Theatre. Stop. Rewind premiered at Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre in Melbourne in 2010 and toured Australia in 2012.
Bubnic’s short play When Vampires Shop was part of Sydney Theatre Company’s Power Plays collection in 2016. She has written for UK TV series Shameless and Hollyoaks, is writing and developing numerous TV and film projects including two feature film screenplays.
Director: Paige Rattray Featuring: Jimi Bani, Bridie Carter, Danielle Cormack, Jason Klarwein, Joss McWilliam, Andrea Moor, Helen O’Leary Designer: David Fleischer Composer/Sound Designer: Kelly Ryall Lighting Designer: Emma Valente Fight Director: NJ Price Dramaturge: Marcel Dorney Stage Manager: Kat O’Halloran Assistant Stage Manager: Pip Loth
Bille Brown Theatre – Queensland Theatre, 78 Montague Road, South Brisbane
Season: 10 November – 8 December 2018
Information and Bookings: www.queenslandtheatre.com.au
Image: Danielle Cormack stars as Hedda – photo by Tim Jones