Prahran council chambers hosts the opening night of Her Fathers Daughter, a site specific modern adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler; written by Keziah Warner and directed by Cathy Hunt.  ‘What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.’, Muriel Rukeyser. ‘In this play, both in Ibsen’s and in our version it does’ states director Cathy Hunt. Intrigued? You should be. Henrik Ibsen is regarded as one of the most influential playwrights of all time, especially within the realms of realism and watching Her Fathers daughter this evening was a clear reminder of just how timeless his writing is. Writer Keziah Warner has done brilliantly to utilise the key elements of the original script so that the intentions within the story are not lost; while simultaneously elaborating on certain aspects of the play to accommodate a modern context. Although Her Fathers Daughter has stuck pretty closely to Ibsen’s original, it is apparent that Keziah Warner has taken inspiration from suggested themes within Hedda Gabler and expanded on them to explore topics such as feminism and world politics within the play.

Her Fathers Daughter, like Hedda Gabler is set in a large old house, which Hedda’s new husband George has just bought for her with the disillusion that it is the house of her dreams; when in actual fact she despises everything about it. Prahran Council Chambers is the perfect venue to host this site specific piece, not only is it in keeping with the play’s political content but effortlessly accentuates its realism. As the audience follow the characters from room to room, the high ceilings, portraits of historical figures and classic furnishings make it easy to become immersed in the narrative. In addition, the creative team have done a brilliant job of utilising the natural set and lighting that the venue offers.

Hedda Gabler is an iconic character to take on and Cait Spiker does well to play her role as the manipulative daughter of a famous politician on a path to self destruction; whilst still managing to find frequent moments of humour in her character’s bitterness. Newly married to a soon to be professor of politics and with a huge new house to enjoy Hedda has everything that most women could hope for, but somehow its still not enough. As soon as we are introduced to Hedda in Act 1, her lack of social skills is established; at this stage it appears that she just has a sarcastic personality that maybe no one understands. However as the play goes on and the story unravels, we begin to see that these bitter remarks indicate a much deeper darkness within her which she is struggling to control.

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Although the original was written almost 120 years ago, Her Fathers Daughter clearly conveys the idea that actually not that much has changed in that time from a sociological perspective; especially regarding the social pressures felt by women. This idea of a woman like Hedda who once had so much potential, being trapped in a loveless marriage with nothing to else to stimulate her other than manipulating those around her is chillingly pertinent. Even more so as the play goes on and it becomes apparent that Hedda’s life has ended up this way due to decisions she’s made based on what other people will think of her.

Every member of the cast gave a solid performance this evening, the various spaces were used brilliantly and I cannot fault the direction. Her Fathers Daughter is effortlessly relevant. Go and see this reworked classic, you won’t be disappointed!

Images: Theresa Harrison