Cft Hedda 447 X792 Px.

Haydn Gwynne

Anthony Calf   Jonathan Hyde

Hedda Tesman

By Cordelia Lynn
After Henrik Ibsen

Minerva Theatre

Overview

There's no such thing as starting again.

A doting husband. A troubled writer. A loaded gun. It’s 2019 and Hedda Tesman returns to a life she can’t seem to escape.

After thirty years of playing wife, Hedda is bitter and bored. When her estranged daughter, Thea, suddenly reappears asking for help, the present begins to echo the past and Hedda embarks on a path of destruction.

Cordelia Lynn’s Hedda Tesman breathes new life into Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, asking what we inherit, what we endure and how we carry our history. Holly Race Roughan directs this vital exploration of motherhood, power and sabotage.

Cordelia Lynn was the recipient of the 2017 Harold Pinter Commission. Her works include One For Sorrow and Lela and Co for the Royal Court and the libretto for Miranda at the Opéra Comique, Paris. Her plays Best Served Cold (Vaults Festival) and Believers Anonymous (Rosemary Branch) were both directed by Holly Race Roughan.

Haydn Gwynne makes her Chichester debut in the title role. Her stage work includes Billy Elliot (West End and Broadway), The Audience (West End), The Threepenny Opera (National Theatre) and Coriolanus (RSC), while her innumerable TV series include Peak Practice, Mersey Beat, Dalziel and Pascoe, Rome, Drop the Dead Donkey and The Windsors.

Anthony Calf (George Tesman) played Sir Leonard Darwin in Plenty earlier in the Festival 2019 season; his previous appearances at Chichester also include For Services Rendered and Private Lives. His many television appearances include New Tricks and Poldark.

Jonathan Hyde (Brack) last appeared at Chichester in Rattigan’s Nijinsky (Festival 2011); his recent theatre work includes The King’s Speech (West End & UK tour), the title role in Julius Caesar (Sheffield Crucible), and on screen, A Very English Scandal.


A co-production with Headlong and The Lowry


Prologue 2017 Landscape.

Prologue tickets available from 2 March

Reviews

 

Cordelia Lynn has moved Ibsen's characters into the modern day, placing the story in a large, rambling house set outside an English university town. Hedda Tesman, played wonderfully by Haydn Gwynne, is now late middle-aged and painfully aware she has wasted her life.

Designer Anna Fleischle has worked her magic on a set that marvellously creates the impression of a rambling, down at heel residence. And full praise must go to Ruth Chan for the production's music, creating a superb live accompaniment to the events.

Ibsen's Hedda Gabler is one of the theatre's most haunting female characters and tells of a frustration in an age when women had little voice. Through her adaptation, Lynn reveals how Hedda's torment is just as applicable today as it was a century or more ago

WhatsOnStage

Haydn Gwynne gives a remarkable portrait of astonishingly elegant, astonishingly cruel destructiveness in Cordelia Lynn’s modern rewriting of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler

Chichester Observer

In Holly Race Roughan’s neatly effective Headlong co-production, Haydn Gwynne is a thrillingly dangerous presence, as chilly, elegant and steely as a very expensive kitchen knife

Times

A thoughtful and intelligent reworking of the original, and a superb performance from Haydn Gwynne

Financial Times

Hedda’s actions and motivations have captivated audiences for over a century – and this production looks set to continue that trend

Portsmouth News

Holly Race Roughan’s neat, measured direction looks good on Anna Fleischle’s slate-grey set

Guardian

In Holly Race Roughan’s fluently naturalistic production, on a stage filled with unopened packing boxes, like little symbols of an unopened life, Haydn Gwynne’s Hedda radiates the restive bitterness of a once brilliant historian who abandoned her career when she found herself pregnant. She’s now a washed-up housewife, newly returned from America with her dishwater dull academic husband George (a beautifully sympathetic Anthony Calf) and rendered socially invisible by her age and lack of achievements

Telegraph

Haydn Gwynne’s crafting of Hedda is simply exquisite – nonchalant, casual, and utterly and deliberately constrained

i Newspaper

Cordelia Lynn has ingeniously engaged with Hedda Gabler, moving the action to the present day. In Holly Race Roughan’s production, a ghostly pianist plays snatches of Clara Schumann; Anthony Calf (Tesman) is finely ruffled and earnest; Jonathan Hyde (Brack) a Weinsteinian lizard. And Haydn Gwynne’s Hedda is contemptuously commanding.

Observer

Cast & Creatives

Gallery

Haydn Gwynne on playing a Hedda for today

Haydn Gywnne plays the title role in Cordelia Lynn's Hedda Tesman. We talked to her about the appeal of this new interpretation and Ibsen's original.

You’ve played the original Hedda Gabler; what excited you about Hedda Tesman and Cordelia Lynn’s new interpretation of the role and the play?

It’s not simply an adaptation – it’s a play in its own right. Hedda Gabler as originally written is one of the great, challenging roles. At first, I thought this was a kind of sequel. But when I started reading it, I realised that we’re reimagining Hedda as a much older woman, having been married to George Tesman for thirty years, and more or less in the present. What came off the page very quickly was the quality of Cordelia’s writing and what she’s tried to do in terms of tracking the Ibsen quite closely. She is prepared to go somewhere very dark and strange but also I think there’s quite a lot of humour and wit there as well.

Haydn Gwynne in rehearsal for HEDDA TESMAN at Chichester Festival Theatre.  A co-production with Headlong and The Lowry. Credit: Photo by Johan Persson.

Do you think people need to have seen Hedda Gabler to fully appreciate Hedda Tesman?

You categorically do not need to know the original play at all. If people do know Hedda Gabler they’ll notice the shifts that have been made – for example, the character of Thea [a friend in the original] is now Hedda’s estranged daughter. I think they’l be intrigued.

What is it about the play and Ibsen’s writing that retains the fascination for writers and actors today? 

It is extraordinary, Ibsen feels so relevant. He’s very interested in the position of women – of course he’s writing from a 19th century viewpoint. But it’s amazing how even if you do things very specifically within their period, they still do speak very strongly to us today. 

What is it about Hedda as a character that interests people? 

Ibsen writes her unapologetically and I think that is part of the appeal. Why do we want to watch this woman? What she does is very difficult to forgive and yet we are fascinated – fascinated and appalled perhaps, but fascinated by her. In the original, hopefully we understand where these impulses come from, even though we might not approve of them. The challenge we have, is how do we make Hedda’s behaviour understandable now? In our version, she is a much older woman who’s been in the wrong marriage for thirty years – she was an academic, but dropped out when she had a baby – probably suffered from postnatal depression – then blink, you wake up and where did the last 25 years go? I think people will relate to that; it’s a transitional age where there’s a lot more of your life behind you. The opportunities to reinvent yourself don’t look very easy at 60, as they do at 30, 40 or even 50. She’s trapped by the corner she’s backed herself into over a very long time.

Q&A with Ruth Chan

Ruth Chan is a composer for film, stage and music theatre, and a classically trained pianist and multi-instrumental performer. Her work has been performed internationally including commissions from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Tête-à-Tête Opera Festival, British Film Institute, Chinese Arts Space, Shakespeare Festival – Stratford, Canada and Pittsburgh Opera Festival. We asked Ruth to give us an insight into creating the music for Hedda Tesman.

How did you get involved in composing the music for Hedda Tesman

Holly approached me to chat about a couple of projects that I could be involved in, but when she described Hedda Tesman, I was particularly intrigued. Holly wanted a composer who understood the piano intimately because she was interested in blending the sound of the piano into the theatrical/soundscape world of Hedda Tesman. I used to be a pianist myself, so to have the opportunity to create more experimental piano music really excited me.

A piano forms a major symbol in both Ibsen’s original play and Cordelia Lynn’s new adaptation. How has that instrument informed the music in the play?

In Ibsen’s play, Hedda’s piano is symbolic of her aristocratic past with her father, General Gabler, and a site of financial contention between her and her more bourgeois husband. In Cordelia’s version the piano’s symbolism of Hedda’s past and wasted life is heightened, and it is one of the charged objects from her childhood (along with the General’s portrait and her writing desk). It was this heightening which encouraged Holly and designer Anna Fleischle to use a live pianist haunting the play as a design concept, and embed the piano in the tone and experience of the production.

I wanted to reflect Cordelia’s work on Ibsen’s text which is at once a piece of new writing and an adaptation of a 19th century play, so I decided to write contemporised adaptations of a 19th century composer. We chose a more neglected female composer in favour of the more famous male composers of that period. It’s a choice that speaks to Ibsen’s story of a woman’s wasted life, a woman repressed by her circumstances.

What made you and director Holly Race Roughan decide on a piece by Clara Schumann? And have you “adapted” it, in the same way that Cordelia has adapted Ibsen’s original play?

I researched a number of female composers from that period, but in the end felt that Clara Wieck Schumann’s Scherzo No. 1 in D Minor was the most appropriate piece for this show. It has a huge range of colours and emotions in it, from a surging romanticism to more wicked rhythms, to moments of really pure sadness. I felt such a rich and complicated piece reflected Hedda’s character really well.

Clara was a celebrated virtuosic pianist and composer. Her superb piano music had a huge impact on the repertoire, as did her teaching and methods on piano technique. However, as time went on, her memory was neglected in favour of her composer husband, Robert Schumann. It’s a typical story of female erasure from the canon. Fortunately, she has had a revival over the past decade or so and audiences are enjoying her music again.

For a piece written in 1838, the first Scherzo feels very contemporary and could have been written 50 years later. I studied every note of the scherzo and selected fragments and themes, then expanded them as part of the show’s soundworld. As the play develops the composition gradually becomes recognisable as Clara Schumann’s piece. While it is not exactly the same process as Cordelia’s adaption of Ibsen’s play, there are certainly parallels to it.

You’ve written extensively for theatre, documentaries and film; does composing music for theatre demand a particular approach or consideration?

The live element of actors and musicians performing in theatre can create different challenges for the composer when compared to film/television, where the composer works on fixed edits. For example, no actor performs exactly at the same pace every night: Vamps are used for this reason [a musical holding passage that can repeat until the theatrical action is ready to move on, usually when waiting for a script cue or during a scene change]. You also have to consider timings of costume and set changes, movement sequences and transitions that can affect how you’d write the music. And the fast pace of technical rehearsals in the theatre means that I sometimes have to provide a handful of musical solutions on the spot.

Personally, I like to overwrite material then pull back, as I like to have all my musical ingredients and palette ready to bounce on and try on stage. But every composer works differently; I know of some that prefer composing more organically with the actors in the rehearsal room and stage. 

Hedda Tesman plays in the Minerva Theatre until 28 September. 

Ruth Chan.
Haydn Gwynne in the title role of HEDDA TESMAN, a CFT, Headlong and The Lowry co-production. Credit: Photo by Johan Persson.
Clara Schumann 1853.

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Running Time
2 hours and 30 minutes including the interval
Notes
This production contains strong language