Carrie Cracknell and Natalie Abrahami haven't been in the job for long, but the artistic directors of the Gate Theatre have been making their mark on its line-up of international drama. Last year's The Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents and I Am Falling were forceful statements of intent. Next on the list is Hedda, Lucy Kirkwood's modern-day makeover of Ibsen's play, in a symbiosis of dance and drama.
"Both Natalie and myself have a really strong interest in movement and in what movement can say," says Cracknell, who also directs. "As an audience member, you're made very active: sometimes you can watch a piece of movement through the goggles of a narrative and then suddenly you're left to make your own interpretive decision. Each time we make a piece, we're looking for extra textures we can layer in, other languages we can use to make the experience feel a little different for the audience."
Ibsen provides a weighty female protagonist quite out of keeping with the time in which the play was written. In the Gate's production, Cara Horgan takes the lead as the daughter of an aristocrat who marries a young academic more out of a desire for substance in her life, than love. When a rival stands in the way of her husband's progress, Hedda finds that the only way forward is to plot the destruction of others. It's a realist classic, but it's also ripe, meaty fare for Cracknell.
"I've always been fascinated by Hedda," she says. "I was interested in updating her story because I could see the way her character resonates with my generation. We've set it in west London in 2008, and by doing that, it becomes a play about a woman who is not trapped by a lack of choice, but rather by too much choice. It feels like the contemporary quest on some level: she's a woman who could do anything, but can't find anything that makes her feel fulfilled."
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