Anonym anmelder i The Times

Hedda Gabler på Vaudeville Theatre anmeldt i The Times i London 21. april 1891 (No. 33,304).


Although Ibsen has long had a run in the magazines, his devotees seemingly have not been eager to back him for a run on the stage, and, in truth, the experiment made with A Dolls House at the Novelty Theatre some two years ago did not prove of an altogether satisfactory character. But at length the Ibsenites, or some of them, have mustered up courage to give the Norwegian dramatist another chance with the playgoing public. Hedda Gabler, the latest of «the masters» works, was yesterday put up at the Vaudeville for a series of five consecutive matinée performances, under the joint management of Miss Elizabeth Robins and Miss Marion Lea. Five performances! In these days of long runs the estimate is a modest one. There are plays of Ibsens as to which, perhaps, it would still be excessive; but in view of the interest aroused by yesterdays performance we are not disposed to say that Hedda Gabler is one of these. On the contrary, while the newest, this is also in some respects the most acceptable of its authors productions. It is not disfigured, like some of his earlier pieces, by shallow and untenable views of heredity, which, as he seems at length to have discovered, is by no means simple and direct in its action, whether with regard to physical or moral characteristics, but follows a complex and obscure law of alternation and metamorphosis. There is no assertion of heredity at all in this play. He gives us, it is true, a neuropathic study as usual, but as to the ancestral influences that have acted upon his heroine he is silent. We are asked to take her as she stands; and as she stands Hedda Gabler is merely a victim of that «moral insanity,» which, as physiologists now recognize, may be a source of danger to those who are brought into contact with it, though the patient may not be sufficiently mad to be shut up. At first we are puzzled by the womans actions, which we vainly endeavour to reconcile with the dictates of common sense; for Ibsen does not say in so many words that he is giving us a study in névrosité. He allows the case to explain itself, and to do him justice it does this so effectually that in a short time we are content to resign ourselves to what is really a demonstration of the pathology of mind, such as may be found in the pages of the Journal of Mental Science or in the reports of the medical superintendents of lunatic asylums. To an expert, the reconstitution of the vicious hereditary influences that operate in the case of Hedda Gabler would be an easy matter. Whether Ibsen is not quite sure of his ground here, or whether he judges that a string of purely pathological facts would be tiresome to the general public, does not appear. Certain it is that the investigation of the heroines heredity is not in this instance undertaken. The author is satisfied with bringing Hedda Gablers insanity very plainly before us. It is suggested in her inconsequent actions, in her callous behaviour, in her aimless persecution of all around her, and it is finally proved by her motiveless suicide. That the play should be more acceptable than some of its predecessors is a necessary consequence of the very plainness of its thesis, which precludes all discussion of its heroines actions upon ethical grounds. There is no reasoning as to a lunatics behaviour; and Hedda Gabler is manifestly a lunatic of the epileptic class, among whom callousness to the sufferings of others and indifference to their own fate are frequently observed. Whether such a type is a good one for the stage is a question that may be left to the judgment of the public. It is something to be thankful for in the case of an Ibsen play to find oneself absolved from the necessity of explaining motives.

If Hedda Gabler were alone in question, the play would hardly hold the attention of the house, though it might be interesting to an audience of mad doctors. Fortunately it offers other matters for consideration than the eccentricities of the title character. Hedda Gabler has a fool of a husband, a weak female friend, and a designing cavalier servente who is an advocate of the principle of a «triple alliance» in affairs domestic, while on the borders of the action hovers a tiresome but well-meaning maiden aunt. Upon this group of dramatis personæ Ibsen exercises his analytical faculty with excellent effect. He is really admirable in the dissection of character. The subjects that he operates upon and whose vitals he lays bare for our inspection are the reverse of heroic. They are all poor creatures at bottom, with selfishness for their mainspring of action, but they are undeniably human, and to that extent interesting, if repulsive. Then the language in which the play is couched is a model of brevity, concision, and pointedness. It is as innocent of padding as it is of rodomontade; every line tells, and there is not an incident that has not some bearing upon the action, immediate or remote. These are great qualities in a play where getting on with the story is a prime consideration. They have the effect of riveting the attention of the house. The spectator can hardly afford to miss a word or a gesture on the stage, and he is thus brought into a state of constant one might almost say painful suspense. As a set-off to these advantages there is to be noted in the Ibsen drama a total lack of wit or humour, or of other amenities of literary style. It has neither tears nor laughter in its composition, being in its essentials merely a grim, gloomy exposure of the vanity, the pettiness, and to some extent the fatalism of human life. To conceive of the Ibsen drama gaining an extensive or permanent foothold on the stage is hardly possible. Playgoing would then cease to be an amusement and become a penance; and the function of the dramatist in society would be similar to that of the skeleton at the Egyptian feast. But as a corrective to the vapid and foolish writing with which the stage is deluged, an occasional Ibsen play is not without its uses; and Hedda Gabler from this point of view is perhaps entitled to the place of honour. It is easy to understand, at all events, why this play should have stirred the enthusiasm of the two clever and ambitious young actresses who have taken it in hand. Whatever may be its faults, it is not commonplace. If it has no other useful effect, it serves at least to lift the actors out of the groove of conventionality in other words, to make them think. The most striking feature of the acting of Hedda Gabler is its intelligence. That Miss Robins is versed in the technicalities of the neuropathic diathesis it would be rash to assume, but she certainly succeeds in giving a most life-like embodiment of the «moral insanity» of the medical text-books. There is even something of the gleam of madness in her eye, as well as a general suggestion in her whole demeanour of the uncanniness of such a female «monster» as might have been fabricated by a Frankenstein. The Mrs. Elvsted of Miss Marion Lea, on the other hand, is a portrait of artless rusticity which is almost pathetic in its simple-mindedness. In these two parts alone we have acting that fully compensates for the drawbacks of the play as an entertainment. Admirable also, upon a somewhat lower plane, are the impersonations of the husband by Mr. Scott Buist, lami de la maison by Mr. Sugden, and the drunken man of letters by Mr. Elwood. Acted as it is at the Vaudeville, Hedda Gabler has features that arrest attention, though it would be idle to say that the last word of Ibsenism, as here spoken, is one that the world can be any the better for hearing.

Publisert 6. apr. 2018 09:57 - Sist endret 6. apr. 2018 09:57