Anthony Calf is enjoying Chichester Festival Theatre at the double this summer

Haydn Gwynne, Jacqueline Clarke and Anthony Calf. Photo by Johan Persson
Haydn Gwynne, Jacqueline Clarke and Anthony Calf. Photo by Johan Persson

After Plenty in the main house comes Hedda Tesman in the Minerva for Anthony Calf in a very Chichester summer.

Cordelia Lynn’s new play breathes new life into Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler in the Minerva Theatre from August 30-September 28.

Haydn Gwynne takes the role of Hedda. Anthony is her husband.

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.

The consequences come promised as a “vital exploration of motherhood, power and sabotage.”

As Anthony says: “It is certainly an extension and adaption of Hedda Gabler, but it is very much a play in its own right. No prior knowledge is needed, but certainly if you had prior knowledge, it would enhance the experience. Haydn would categorically say you don’t need to know Hedda Gabler, but I do think it would add another level to your academic experience.

“But I do think the play is particularly relevant in this era of mental sensitivities and greater awareness of mental disorder, but equally it deals with the past history of gender inequality, but also it is based on an 1800s classic where Ibsen was very much dealing with strong female characters.

“But I do think Cordelia has a very strong sense of gender equality and this was an opportunity to present a classic, tragic female and bring her into the 21st century.

“She is a very serious thinker, Cordelia!

“It has been very useful that she has been around quite a lot. When I first read the play, I was struck by its poetic nature in terms of its language and dialogue, but also in the way she writes her stage directions. She has got a strong classical music background, and part of her interest in dialogue and rhythm is something you hear in the beat of the play. The whole thing reads very beautifully.”

Part of the fascination for Anthony this summer will be to switch from the main house for Plenty to the Minerva for Hedda Tesman, both spaces he knows well.

“I think in the Minerva you are very aware that the audiences are up close so much more.

“In the Minerva there is an ability to be more subtle, though obviously you have to be aware of people behind you.

“The Minerva is a U-shaped auditorium and the main house is thrust. You have to remember that the audience are almost around you.

“And I love that sense of everybody having a good view. It is a bit like life, a bit like sitting at a table. You know that the person in front of you can see you, but you have also got to be aware of the people either side.

“In this, I play George, Hedda’s husband, and the whole thing is written as if 30 years into their marriage, which contributes to the weight of the relationship. George is well-meaning and intelligent, but not a character full of flair.

“And he is not enough for her… I think you do have sympathy for him, but that doesn’t automatically mean you don’t have sympathy for Hedda.

“They are two decent-minded people who are just not married to the right person…”

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