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REVIEW: Hedda, Nora, Julie and Me, BackYard Theatre Ensemble, EdFringe 2022, ★★★★☆

REVIEW: Hedda, Nora, Julie and Me, BackYard Theatre Ensemble, EdFringe 2022, ★★★★☆

This play had me in it with them from the very first beat. The tension of bringing together four incredibly diverse and intense women from the theatrical canon was captivating. This show is an hour of watching a realistic take on four old friends who stayed in contact out of obligation. The brilliant awkwardness made me remember those old worn-out friendships that may be time to let go of. Relationships, old flames, hidden emotions, frustration, creative dreams, and unresolved issues. The perfect storm.

A high-school reunion-style set-up brings together four of the theatrical canon’s most iconic women. Hedda- Hedda Gabler and Nora- A Doll’s House, both Ibsen classics, Strindberg’s Julie from Miss Julie and Nina from Chekov’s The Seagull. Hosted at Noras’ house, the play reveals all their unshared burdens, secrets, dreams, and old grudges.

Made almost entirely out of monologues and closely translated script from the original plays, it’s impossible to review this piece and not mention the extensive work it would’ve taken Joachim Matschoss to write. I was admittedly a little sceptical when I heard about the concept, but Joachim has intelligently strung together these four women in a setting that allows them to come to life with integrity and a bucket load of exciting twists and turns. It almost felt that the excerpts from each play were meant to be brought together in such a thoughtful manner.
While a more modern-day woman would probably prefer to see these four characters engage with content other than the men in their lives, this is forgiven knowing the script’s origins. In these plays, these characters spent a lot of their voice on men’s actions, infatuations, and attitudes.

The four actresses honoured and dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to each character. Verity Wood commits fully to the relentlessness of Hedda’s criticism and struggle. She brings a flair and nuance to this role that left us wanting more. Hedda’s torrent of bitter words is mainly directed toward Nina, played by Amalia Krueger. Amalia gives a well-rounded and colourful perspective to this role and holds strength and dedication in her performance style. Her stage presence is captivating. Nina sits in the inspiration of Julie, a writer played by Rhian Wilson. Rhian brings a lightness and almost optimistic tone to Julie. It’s beautiful to watch Rhian sweep through the tense and awkward dynamic between the group with a breath of fresh air. All are hosted in the home of Nora, played by Bianca Conry. With a gentle and honest performance style, Bianca is a sweet bundle of joy to watch. I couldn’t help but feel empathy for Nora as she tried to keep the peace.

The overall set was minimal; this was okay. However, it would be interesting to watch this play unfold with a bigger budget and with a little more set detail to enhance further the coming together of these four characters from their original storylines. There is a lot of potential here in design and scale for this play. Each moment was delivered with honesty and precision, creating an inescapable tension. The tension builds and builds so slowly that expectations are pretty high when the pot does boil over. The moment Hedda picks up a gun is off-stage, leaving me feeling like there was an intensity missing from this moment. We missed a crucial part in the play. But maybe the restraint held right until the end reflects society’s restriction on these women. Theatre is all up for interpretation, right?!

Hedda, Nora, Julie, and Me reveals itself almost painfully slow, in the most captivating way. While the concept and title lend themselves to being a play for theatre lovers, there’s magic here for everyone. Because who hasn’t walked into a reunion and wished they’d stayed home? To celebrate four plays, four characters, and four actresses in an hour with such sophistication and creativity is a worthwhile experience for anyone. This play’s very subtle unravelling kept me engaged until the very end. Beautiful.

Recommended drink: A Negroni because this play is equal parts delicious, strong, and powerful

fringe might be over, but Hedda, Nora Julie and Me will be continuing their tour, so stay up to date on their IG and social media @heddanorajulie_me

Previous post REVIEW: Black is the Color of My Voice, Play The Spotlight & Seabright Productions, EdFringe 2022 ★★★★★