We Spoke to 'Hedda Gabler' Director Andrew Whittle Ahead of the Premier at Nottingham Arts Theatre at the end of March

Photos: Here to There Productions
Interview: Cathy Symes
Saturday 02 March 2024
reading time: min, words

With a fresh adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's 'Hedda Gabler' coming to the Nottingham Arts Theatre at the end of March, we sat down with director and writer Andrew Whittle, to talk about developing unlikable characters and what it's like getting into directing in his forties.

HG Pichedda&Eilert

Andrew, thanks for meeting with me, for people who have no knowledge of Hedda Gabler and without giving away any spoilers, why Hedda?

Hedda is such a roller coaster story, compelling and fast-paced. Hedda has just returned from her honeymoon and over a mere 36 hours we watch how her life spirals out of control. It’s quite mesmerising to watch and because of that it seemed like a good play to do. It fitted with a season of European plays we were doing last year. I read a few adaptations, liked bits of some of them, but not all of them so I decided to write my own, and quite enjoyed it.

How is this adaptation different or similar to the original?

It hasn’t deviated from the original in that it’s still set in 1890’s Norway, but what I’ve tried to do is explain some of the loose ends that I found in other adaptations. Like what happened during the honeymoon to make Hedda so unhappy on her return, and why the character, Lövborg, a rival of her husband, is also a threat to Hedda, which in turns leads her to do what she does.

There are different ways of looking at Hedda, one is a feminist view, that she is a woman trying to gain control of her own life, and alternatively, she can be seen as a woman trying to control the lives of others for her own entertainment. What’s your take on her?

I think it’s both. She was brought up living a very sheltered and secluded life with her father, in army barracks, and doesn’t know much about the outside world but is desperate to find out. Before the action starts, we know that her father has died and that she needed somebody to support her, so she had to take control of her own life. Which is why she marries someone she doesn’t like. Using her influence over him, she gets him to buy a house that they struggle to afford, and this again is her trying to take control.

However, when she comes back from honeymoon, she finds that she is looking at a very unhappy life, so to alleviate her boredom, she manipulates people, which backfires on her. Which is what you see happening over the course of the play. Some of how she behaves is not just for the sake of it, the way she manipulates the likes of Lövborg for example is for her financial wellbeing. So yes, she is trying to manipulate people and take control of her life, the two go together.

Do you like Hedda?

It’s difficult to like her, but her life hasn’t been a bed of roses. Her circumstances have forced her into a marriage she doesn’t want, so you do have sympathy for her, but you can’t condone what she does.

I never thought that I’d have the vision or confidence to tell professional actors what to do, but I find if you treat people well and are able to justify what you are saying then you always get the best out of people.

Tell us about your production company ‘Here to There Productions’? How did you become involved? I believe you set it up?

I did, I came to acting quite late. I was 43, working as a solicitor, which I still do, and saw an advert for acting classes for beginners for over 40’s and decided to give it a go. I went to classes for about a year and really enjoyed it. We then found out that a theatre company was looking for a few extras and most of the class went along to the auditions. I was lucky as I was cast in a fairly substantial speaking role. It involved lawyers, so that may have helped! Again, I enjoyed it and did a few more plays for local amateur dramatic societies.

I then became interested in doing the plays The Hound of the Baskervilles and Anne Boleyn which no one else was putting on at the time and thought, ‘what’s stopping me doing it myself?’ So I set up the company. The Hound of the Baskervilles needed three male actors and only two turned up to the first auditions, but we muddled through, it went down well. Then I did Anne Boleyn which got us up and running as an amateur company. We did about four or five plays until someone left, and we couldn’t get a replacement in time, so we hired a professional actor to fill in, which worked so we became ‘pro-am’ and over time we used more professional actors until became a professional independent company, which is what we have now been for six or seven years.

What does it mean to be an independent theatre company?

I use the term independent to mean that we are not tied to a particular theatre. We’re free to go wherever we want, and to do the plays we want. This weekend we had auditions for the Cherry Orchard which we intend to put on later this year and had over 150 people turn up. About eighty five per cent of our professional actors return to perform with us and it’s also nice to have a fresh dynamic.

Nottingham Arts Theatre is a well-loved community theatre, what attracted you to it as a venue for your play?

Because we had such a successful first run of Hedda in Malvern last March the cast were keen to take it on tour. This is the first time we have ventured out from the West Midlands, and I wanted to start in the Midlands, so I looked to Nottingham, which I know well and then to Nottingham Arts Theatre who were very accommodating and approachable.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in treading the boards or directing or writing?

Give it a go and enjoy it. Don’t feel intimidated or frightened. People worry they will make a fool of themselves or make mistakes and I say, ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ At the end of the day, it’s a play, it should be enjoyable, so don’t be too anxious about it, just make it fun. You’ll also find that you meet people from all walks of life and they’re interesting, so it gives you a great social life. I’ve made lots of friends from doing this. The same applies to directing. I never thought that I’d have the vision or confidence to tell professional actors what to do, but I find if you treat people well and are able to justify what you are saying then you always get the best out of people.

Watch the trailer for Hedda on the Here to There Productions YouTube channel.



We are now able to offer our supporters a 50% discount on tickets for this show. To take up this offer you need to:

1) Go to the ticket booking link on the Nottingham Arts Theatre website 

2) Choose your show date on the right hand menu (26, 27 or 28 March)

3) Choose your seats

4) Use the promo code HEDDA50 in the box before checkout

There's a limited number of these discounted tickets available and they are for online bookings only. So get them while you can!

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