IBSEN S fledda Gabler is not an easy play. And Ibsen's Hedda Gabler is a far from easy heroine. Selfish, destructive, snobbish and manipulative by turns she can be a wearisome companion; attempts to engender sympathy in the audience can often prove a baleful embarrassment. If this is the Hedda you recall from your last excursion into her strange and fraught world, or if this is the Hedda of whom you have heard tell, then think again.
The Abbey Theatre Company's production currently ensconced at the Playhouse in London following a triumphant run in Dublin is the sort of thing that crops up in history books described as "definitive" and "ground-breaking". And it is hard to imagine any actor daring to take on the mantle once Fiona Shaw has cast it off.
Gone the one-dimensional plodding blandness of the usual translation, delivered at a funereal pace. This text erupts with fireworks and skates over ice as THE Catholic Herald in conjunction with Dewynters is happy to offer a pair of tickets to each of the following performances of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler at the Playhouse Monday September 30, Tuesday October 1 and Wednesday October 2.
To win the tickets to see this acclaimed production, simply write the answers to the following three questions on a postcard, including your name and address and a day-time telephone number, and send them to Hedda Gabler Competition, Catholic Herald, thin you can almost see the face of the dead Hedda being dragged along below the surface. Fiona Shaw's heroine is a terrifying and desperate creature. Transplanting the furniture in her newlywed home like someone playing out a Herald House, Lambs Passage, Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8TQ. Entries must arrive no later than first post Wednesday September 25 and winners will be contacted that day.
(1) Which of the following plays was not written by Henrik Ibsen? a: A Doll's House b: Ghosts c: The Seagull (2) In which Oscar-winning film did Fiona Shaw star?
(3) What is the title of the Abbey Theatre's other production currently running in the West End? game of chess against an irresistible opponent, she does not so much teeter on the brink as barnstorm it. Her lines are delivered at a headlong pace as she rushes to an inevitable conclusion, and when this Hedda finally turns the gun on herself, the greatest shock is that she has not turned it earlier onto any one of the other people in her home.
It is hard to recall the last time an audience laughed so heartily at anything that ends so tragically, but this is Ibsen at his most bleak and farcical. There are also moments of exhilarating anarchy, and abandoned relief.
It is a testament to Fiona Shaw's performance that it remains so extraordinary even within a company of exceptional balance and focus. Do spend an evening with Ms Gabler if you can.