Experimentals are quite enjoyable to watch, because there’s always something curious to look forward to. For The Company Theatre’s production of Hedda Gabler, it was the stage. Just like the imaginary game of house you might recall playing as a child, you see lines defining the scene of all the action with its entries and exits.
Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler (1890) is the story of cruel, self-centred and bored to death, Hedda Tesman (Sheeba Chada), who returns from her honeymoon to find that even through her husband Jorgen Tesman (Neeraj Kabi) dotes on her, she is not, nor was she ever interested in him. Throw in characters such as Judge Brack (Denzil Smith), whose motivations don’t extend beyond wanting to have an affair with Hedda and Eilert Lovborg (Samar Sarila), an ex-flame who is rivalling her husband for a job Tesman needs, and you get a cruel tale of darkness, deceit and characters that are either too brutal or too naïve.
There’s been a lot written about the once controversial character of Hedda Gabler, so needless to say film and television actor, Sheeba Chada, had a lot of expectations to live up to. Critics have often likened Gabler to Lady Macbeth, but I beg to differ because Ibsen’s anti-heroine is in a league of her own, and Chadda fit the role like a hand in a glove.
I have to admit that I had reservations about watching a European play being performed by an Indian cast. Will they pull off the diction? Shouldn’t they experiment with a bit of an Indo-Western theme? Can they still make it relatable? But all my doubts were put to rest within the first few minutes, because the presentation draws you straight in.
Admittedly, I can’t say Hedda Gabler was the best of Ibsen plays to choose from because the story doesn’t have the characteristics that leave a haunting impression in our day and age. Regardless, the cast, characters and the timing of the dialogues was impeccable, which made the play’s 2 hours and 30 minutes most enjoyable.