Monday, November 29, 1999

Hedda Revisited

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The Company Theatre from Mumbai brings alive Henrik Ibsen's controversial heroineHedda Gabler has remained enigmatic for more than a century. Created by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in 1890, Gabler—often termed as "female Hamlet"— is also considered to be one of the greatest dramatic characters. Now, the Mumbai-based Company Theatre, which presented The Blue Mug earlier this year, will tackle Hedda Gabler.Playing the lead will be Mumbai-based actor Sheeba Chadha. In the past, many great actors including Ingrid Bergman, Annette Bening, Judy Davis and Cate Blanchett have played Gabler. "I was not familiar with Hedda till I started reading the play in January. Of all of Ibsen's plays that I've read, Hedda Gabler roused me enough viscerally to take up the role," says the film and theatre actor.Chadha is aware of the challenges that Gabler poses. "She is an extremely conflicting and conflicted character. I have still not formed enough conclusions to be able to pin her down," she says. Gabler, the daughter of an aristocratic general, marries an aspiring young academic, George Tesman, thwarting the attentions of her admirer Eilert Lovborg. However, circumstances bring Lovborg into her life again, resulting in Gabler turning into a ruthless schemer to destroy him.Chadha considers Gabler to be her toughest and "most taxing" role. Apart from the grueling rehearsal schedule, what's obviously strenuous for Chadha is that Gabler is constantly in focus throughout the two-and-a-half-hour play. "It's hugely demanding to be in Hedda's world," says the actor, whose other demanding roles have included C For Clown ("for sheer physicality"), Eugene Ionesco's The Chairs and Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.The Blue Mug, a play directed by Chadha's husband Atul Kumar, has more shows scheduled this year.Hedda Gabler premiered in Bangalore in February and was produced by Gomber Education Foundation. The play will travel to New Delhi later this year.

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