Clement Scott

Hedda Gabler på Vaudeville Theatre anmeldt av Clement Scott i The Illustrated London News 25. april 1891.



A few steps out of the hospital ward, and we arrive at the dissecting-room. Down a little lower, still a few steps lower down, and we come to the dead-house. There, for the present, Ibsen has left us. From «Ghosts» to «Rosmersholm»: from «Rosmersholm» to «Hedda Gabler» who knows where the «master» will lead us next? Probably into the cemetery and the graveyard, among the evil spirits and the ghouls. Thanks to Miss Elizabeth Robins and to Miss Marion Lea, to Mr. Elwood and to Mr. Scott Buist, the admirers of the new school have scored what they claim to be a victory. «We are winning! We are winning!» shouted the dramatic radicals, as with natural enthusiasm they crowded on one anothers heels out of the little theatre. The jargon of the new faith had been caught up by the willing disciples and the lovers of the morbid. «I like the play, because it is so unconventional!» «It interests me, because the trick of the theatre is so conspicuously absent!» «The people on the stage are so delightfully wicked, and do such extraordinary things. It is all so deliciously horrible!» These were some of the remarks that forced themselves on the attentive ear. No doubt all this was said in perfectly good faith. «Hedda Gabler» had interested an audience a certain audience. «Hedda Gabler» had been acted as few expected it could have been acted in this country. The text had been carefully and conscientiously revised. Certain notorious passages had been suppressed. The condition of Mrs. Hedda Gabler was not too carefully inquired into. The curiosity of the maiden aunt was checked. The suggestive thoughts of Judge Brack were kept in the background. The «master» was not allowed to talk exactly as he did at the outset. By supreme art the sense of the ludicrous, which bubbles up all over the text, was strangled at its birth. The audience was spellbound. I grant it. Those who came to laugh remained to pause, if not to pray. But, for my own part, I shall not believe that the new school has made many converts until the professors of it have the courage of their opinions. Let them put up «Hedda Gabler» for a run. Let them place it before the public and submit it to a jury of playgoers, who know no more about Ibsen than the man in the moon. The distrust of Ibsen has been compared to the distrust of Wagner. Surely it is time now to test the question whether the «drama of the future» is a stern reality or a passing whim!

I prefer for the present to say little here about Ibsens last play. There it is, in print. Anyone can purchase it at the nearest booksellers shop. It is open to the enthusiast and the sceptic alike. It is well that everyone should read it for themselves. It is right that we should all have a forecast of the future. It will aid discussion and argument if the new pessimistic play is read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested; but whether those who conscientiously oppose pessimism as illuminated by art write «fluff» or not, at least I may be permitted the honesty of owning that «Hedda Gabler,» when tackled by clever and conscientious students, acts far better than it reads.

Miss Elizabeth Robins, who has recently distinguished herself in the second rôle in Ibsens «Dolls House,» has distinguished herself still more as the repulsive heroine of Ibsens last work. A woman more morally repulsive has seldom been seen on the stage. She talks with conviction and acts like a lunatic. The daughter of General Gabler is what would be called in England a «garrison hack.» She has danced till she is sick of it. Society bores her; she is threatened with the crime of being an old maid. So she marries the first fool who offers her home and sustenance. The woman has taken a false oath at the altar. She has told a lie, and intends to stick to it. Faithfulness does not enter into her creed, and she abhors maternity and its duties. She insults her husband and his relations. She falls in with the idea of a «triple alliance» between herself, her husband, and her husbands sensual but best friend. She discovers that her old chum and school companion is under the influence of a man «who seems in the way of improvement yet.» That alliance she determines to crush. She is the serpent with the fangs; her woman friend is the trembling rabbit. The man hovering on the brink of ruin, whom she might save and ennoble, she urges to suicide. She glories in destruction. When he is dead the only sorrow she has is that he has not killed himself artistically. He has made an ugly corpse. But she applauds his pluck in «breaking away from the banquet of life so early!» Her eyes brighten, and her nervous system glows when she reflects that «Lövborg has had the courage to live his life after his own fashion!» Think only what this means. The same justification would apply to a burglar, a seducer, and a murderer. If Peace and Mrs. Pearcey had only committed suicide after their burglary and murder, they would have been justified by the propagandist of lawlessness. «Brave man, Lövborg, to deceive three women, and then to die by your own hand!» proclaims Mrs. Hedda Gabler. And when she finds that she has made one fatal mistake in her life, and put herself into the power of her husbands best friend, the sensualist, this woman of the new school uses her last pistol on her own brain or what is left of it and the curtain falls. Miss Elizabeth Robins approached her task with artistic glee, and crowned it with undoubted success. The lovers of sustained art should not miss it, even if the play itself shocks them. The character grew under the influence of the actress. Her face was a study. No one could move their eyes from her. It was the morbid attraction that we have felt at the Central Criminal Court at a great murder trial. What changes of expression and of manner! What watchfulness! What a sublime study of deceit and heartlessness! It is said there are such women in the world. There may be, but thank God they are the rare exception, not the rule! And Miss Elizabeth Robins has done what no doubt she fully intended to do. She has made vice attractive by her art. She has almost ennobled crime. She has stopped the shudder that so repulsive a creature should have inspired. She has glorified an unwomanly woman. She has made a heroine out of a sublimated sinner. She has fascinated us with a savage.

And what better contrast to this sane lunatic, to this reasoning madwoman, than the gentle, sweet-faced, almost angelic Mrs. Elvsted as played by Miss Marion Lea? We saw exactly the woman before our eyes. There she was, fair as a lily, with her glory of yellow hair and frightened eyes, weak as water, irresolute, a reed shaken by the winds, but a woman gaining courage and almost nobility under a strong influence. The mere look of Mrs. Elvsted, her mild, wondering face, her pathetic voice, her intense trustfulness, almost brought tears to the eyes! Miss Marion Leas performance is, in its way, as remarkable as that of Miss Robins. The one is the complement of the other.

And surely the Lövborg of Mr. Arthur Elwood is quite as fine a study of character. He exaggerated nothing in tone or demeanour or dress. We saw the strong intellectual man going under. We perceived the flash of power that survived the depravity. We understood how such a man, with such physical gifts, with such intellectual force, with such a face, could gain the ascendency over a trickster like Hedda Gabler, a weak fair-haired Magdalen like Mrs. Elvsted, and the dissolute red-haired actress in whose loveless arms he died! Few who saw it will forget the scene between Hedda and Lövborg over the photographs; the scene with the pistols that precedes Mr. Elwoods really fine exit to his death; the scene of the burning of the manuscript by Hedda; or the last scene at the stove between Hedda and the Judge. All credit should be given for the development of them alike to Miss Robins, to Mr. Elwood, and to Mr. Charles Sugden, who had a most difficult task, but acquitted himself admirably. The sensuality of Judge Brack was suggested, never asserted. Nor, indeed, should considerable praise be denied to Mr. Scott Buist for his impersonation of George Tesman. A kindly, affectionate nature, but a weak and foolish man. No wonder such a man bored Hedda Gabler! No wonder he jarred upon her nerves! She married him in her imperious way, and she intended to snub him for the term of his natural life. I am not likely to forget a scene in the last act, where these four characters are contrasted by Miss Robins, Miss Marion Lea, Mr. Sugden, and Mr. Scott Buist. It was a triumph of intellectual acting. Even such minor characters as the old aunt and the servant were acted to perfection by Miss Cowan and Miss Chapman.

It may be true that Ibsen can draw character, can create men and women alluring to the artist; that the very simplicity of his dialogue can fascinate the imaginative and sensitive actor or actress, and that he gives them scope for a freer use of their talent than they have hitherto enjoyed. So far as we have gone, Ibsens lines have fallen into pleasant places. The people who have taken him up have done so devotedly and as with a religion. The play of «Hedda Gabler» is not only acted well but has been rehearsed to perfection. But if I were asked if it is a well-made play, a play for the people, a wholesome play, an instructive play, a play that amuses, or elevates, or assists the imagination or fancy, or fairly contrasts the good with the bad, the evil in life with the good, I should answer «No.» We take it down with a gulp, and shudder afterwards. And there is no positive proof that such a dose of medicine does anybody any good whatever.
Publisert 6. apr. 2018 09:57 - Sist endret 6. apr. 2018 09:57