‘Hedda’ as adapted by Melissa Bubnic, directed by Paige Rattray and starring Danielle Cormack packs a punch.
Right from the get-go, characters strut on stage, talk loud and all but scream their inner motives at each other. There is nothing subtle in what they choose to wear, what they choose to say or how they choose to treat each other. There is also nothing subtle about the feminist subtext that is woven throughout. This is a show with a lot to say.
At the centre of an impressive ensemble cast is a subtle lead performance from Danielle. The strength of this adaptation is how it makes you sympathise with a character who may not be a particularly likeable person. By the end of the play you may not know if you agree with all of what she did but you damn well understand why she did it.
The story is set in the backyard of a Gold Coast mansion. Hedda, of Melbourne privilege, has come there from her honeymoon with a meth drug dealer. It is a change of scene for the Victorian sophisticate but the 'bogans' that surround her are not strangers. Everybody has a previous relationship to her and they know each other very well. There is a tension there as they see the new bride as a threat and she sees them as a means to an end.
The design of the set is minimal but playful, all white with cool blue and bright pink lighting to stimulate the passage from day to night. The look evocative of '80s heroin chic, with not one blade of grass in sight we see clearly the backyard where the story is set. A nice touch is how items pile up over the narrative from various interactions never being cleared away as happens sometimes in a backyard.
Just about every character besides Hedda we see clearly the motives and nature of. They’re colourful and larger than life and a lot of the humour is derived by how they describe the quirks of Queensland personalities. Everybody convinces and inhabits their characters but three stand-outs are Bridie Carter, Joss McWilliam and Andrea Moor. Sometimes the actors seemed to miss their cues or jump too quickly in some of the rapid fire dialogue exchanges but mostly they took us into this world and held us there nonstop for 100 minutes never breaking character. Danielle Cormack as Hedda is the star on so many levels; she is on the stage the most and carries a certain presence that you can barely take your eyes off her. What Hedda is really thinking remains an enigma, when she regrets, is she just covering her tracks? When she provokes, is she just hurt? When she reconciles, is she just being strategic?
Everyone around her acts as a foil saying exactly who they are and what they want. In the end she follows their example in the most satisfying way possible as she responds to the darker side of male privilege and aggression. The makers of the show seem to be asking what would you do, and would you fare any better? The answers may surprise you.