Preview article in Monday Magazine!

Go Ahead, Hedda
Posted By: Amanda Farrell-Low
06/02/2010 8:00 AM

Inconnu sets Ibsen’s classic in the not-too-distant future

Hedda Gabler is getting under Casey Austin’s skin—or is Austin getting under Gabler’s? Talking to Austin about her upcoming performance in the role that has been described as the female Hamlet, it’s difficult to tell.

“My first impression of Hedda was that she was cruel and without a lot of dimension to the cruelty,” says Austin, who first read Henrik Ibsen’s 1890 play of the same name several years ago. “I didn’t know why she was cruel; my impression was that she just wanted to be spiteful and hurt people around her because she herself was unhappy . . . Since working on the character, I’ve come to really identify with her and it frightens me a little bit, honestly. I don’t think I’m a cruel person, I don’t think I’m spiteful and vindictive in the ways that Hedda can be, but I do identify with her values.”

The play, which tells the story of how its title character, a newly wed general’s daughter, sabotages the lives of those around her as she attempts to advance herself, is getting a futuristic treatment courtesy of Theatre Inconnu’s Graham McDonald—and also gets the pleasure of breaking in Inconnu’s newly renovated space at 1923 Fernwood Road. McDonald, who has directed past Inconnu productions such as The Pillowman and The Caretaker, has adapted the play to set it in September, 2012—three months before the end of the Mayan calendar and what some believe to be the end of civilization. He’s also cast Hedda and her new husband, George Tesman, and her former love interest and husband’s rival, Ejlert Løvborg, as radical environmentalists as opposed to academics.

“We all went through the millennium and all the hype and fear that was propagated around that—and all the merchandise that was sold and everything was about the turn of the millennium and the possible end of the world,” says McDonald. “I can’t help but think that’s what we’re heading for in 2012, a lot of that fear mongering—and the fear mongering not being based around the actual realities that could actually end the world, like environmental disaster or manmade catastrophes.”

Austin says she first heard that McDonald was planning to do the audition when he was directing the Vancouver run of Wajdi Mouawad’s Scorched, in which Austin played (and garnered an M award nomination for) the central role of Nawal. McDonald planned on doing Hedda Gabler 2012CE in the fall, but Austin, who will be moving to New York to do her Masters degree in theatre arts at Columbia, asked if he’d consider doing it sooner so she could audition for the lead role.

“She reread it that week in Vancouver that we opened and started putting the pressure on me to do that first,” says McDonald, who was also working on an adaptation of Woyzeck, Georg Büchner’s unfinished play, set in post-apocolyptic 2037, which he hopes to mount near the end of this year.

For Austin, the opportunity to play Gabler was one she couldn’t pass up. “It’s an incredible honour just to be able to do it,” she says. “[Gabler] has got so many layers, it’s just fascinating . . . I’ve had the opportunity to work with Graham, who is fantastic, and to bring all these different emotions and thoughts behind it, and what she shows to the people around her and what she doesn’t show and all those layers, it’s a real dream.”

One of the challenges of bringing Hedda Gabler into the 21st century is that social norms have changed dramatically; something like Gabler talking back to her husband or having dinner alone with a man wouldn’t be as big a deal today as it was in 1890. But Austin says the new time period makes discovering motivations for Gabler’s behaviour more interesting. “Being that it’s set in the future, it creates a more complex choice for the modern Hedda because she’s making that choice when she could very well be involved—and that decision has to come from somewhere,” she says. “Hedda’s got a lot of issues with physical proximity and demands upon her psyche and upon her body.”

McDonald, who will be participating in director Q&A;sessions after every performance of Hedda Gabler 2012CE, says he’s enjoying writing more these days, but isn’t in a position to write full-time—hence the adaptations.

“I think every show that I’ve done in the last five years, I’ve adapted in some way—which, if the writer were to find out, they might come and beat me up,” he says. “I take as much as I can. It’s trying not to be afraid, to just push it as hard as you can and adaptation is the best way to do that. You go by your own rules, your own vision—and you take all the blame if it doesn’t work.”

Given the track record of McDonald, Austin and the Inconnu team, I doubt much blame will be thrown around once the curtain falls.

NEW Website, Production, and Renovated Theatre Space!

Welcome to Theatre Inconnu’s new Website.  Have a look around and tell us what you think.  We will be growing it as we go and will be adding new features and content over time. From this new site you will be able to renew your membership, make a donation, even reserve tickets for an upcoming production!

Our latest theatrical endeavor is coming up quick. HEDDA GABLER 2012CE opens June 9th, 2010 in the freshly renovated and seismically upgraded Little Fernwood Hall.

Show times and information are here HEDDA GABLER 2012CE.

To reserve your tickets for this production please visit the reservation page here RESERVE.


Scorched was produced by Theatre Inconnu in Victoria in November 2009, and Vancouver in January 2010

This 2007 Dora Award-Winning play explores themes growing out of the immigrant / refugee experience. It has proven itself one of the most powerfully engaging dramatic works to be produced in this country during the past three years. Civil war in the Middle East forms the backdrop for much of the play’s action as Mouawad explores with profound insight the concepts of love, loyalty, and betrayal.

Scorched, Casey Austin, Theatre Inconnu

The plot revolves around a brother and sister’s quest to unearth the history – decease and mystery – of their immigrant mother. As their journey takes them to the Middle East, they enter into a process of coming to terms with their own sense of loss and emptiness, while learning to understand the legacy of suffering left in the wake of conflict.

Hedda Gabler 2012CE

“It was the best of times, but mostly it was the worst of times.” – Brynjolf Bjarme

Henrik Ibsen (20 March 1828 – 23 May 1906) was a major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet. He is often referred to as “the godfather” of modern drama and is one of the founders of Modernism in the theatre. His plays were considered scandalous to many of his era, when Victorian values of family life and propriety largely held sway in Europe. Ibsen’s work examined the realities that lay behind many facades, possessing a revelatory nature that was disquieting to many contemporaries. It utilized a critical eye and free inquiry into the conditions of life and issues of morality. Ibsen is often ranked as one of the truly great playwrights in the European tradition, alongside Shakespeare.

Hedda Gabler, by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, was first published in 1890. The play premiered in Germany, 1891 to negative reviews, but has subsequently gained recognition as a classic of realism, nineteenth century theatre and world drama. The play does not offer any easy answers. Hedda Gabler remains a powerful portrayal of one woman’s alienation from and suffocation by the bourgeois society that she has become a part of. Many critics consider the character of Hedda to be one of the great dramatic roles in theatre — the “female Hamlet” — and some portrayals have been very controversial. Quite late in the process of writing the play, Ibsen changed the title from Hedda to Hedda Gabler. In a letter dated December 4th 1890 to Moritz Prozor, who translated the play into French, Ibsen explained why he had chosen “Gabler” instead of “Tesman”:
“In that way I wanted to indicate that as a personality she is to be regarded more as her father`s daughter than her husband`s wife”.

Further down in the letter Ibsen writes:
“In this play I have not really tried to deal with so-called problems. My main purpose has been to describe human beings, human moods and human fates on the basis of certain conditions and views prevalent in society”.

Hedda has been portrayed as an idealistic heroine fighting society, a victim of circumstance, a prototypical feminist and a manipulative villain.

In Graham McDonald’s re-imagining of the play, HEDDA GABLER 2012CE, we are thrust into one 24-hour period in September of 2012 to view a world that is over saturated with fear propagated by Government, Corporations, The Media, and your Next Door Neighbour.  Escalating global environmental cataclysms of various forms (earthquakes, volcanoes, industrial waste, dust storms, armed conflict) are grinding life as we have come to know it to a halt. With the Mayan calendar date of December 21st, 2012 just around the corner, we are forced to question of whether or not we are in fact approaching the end of civilization.

“An experimental pre-apocalyptic Henrik Ibsen classic.”

Casey Austin – Hedda Gabler
Morgan Cranny – George Tesman
Naomi Simpson – Auntie Jules Tesman
Eric Grace – Senator Brack
Pippa Catling – Berta, The Housekeeper
Jay Mitchell – Eilert Lovborg
Emma Condé – Mrs.Elvsted

Pay what you can Preview Tuesday, June 8th – Opens, Wednesday June 9th
Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm until June 26th, with Matinees on the 12th and 26th.

Tickets: $10/$14

Half price tickets June 16th!

Closing Matinee on the 26th with an end of Run SUMMER BLOWOUT at 8pm Featuring THE SOUL SHAKERS!

To reserve your tickets for this production please visit the reservation page here RESERVATIONS or call 250.360.0234