Geoff Elliott, New York
March 01, 2006
CATE Blanchett and Hugo Weaving trod the boards for a few minutes yesterday at Brooklyn's Harvey Theatre before tonight's premiere of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler.
But if the actors were nervous ahead of the gala opening, they weren't saying, having declined any newspaper interviews.
They have shunned the big US networks too, in keeping with the exclusive atmosphere surrounding the Sydney Theatre Company production.
The production is Blanchett's US stage debut, and a return visit for STC, which presented The White Devil in 2001 at the theatre, run by the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
"BAM has an almost perfect reputation," said STC artistic director Robyn Nevin, admitting to some nerves about Australian accents playing in a famous European drama to a US audience who know their theatre.
"There's a need for greater care I think … they are American ears. We sought a lot of responses from staff here at BAM. We invited them in a final run of rehearsal. We had an invited-audience dress rehearsal on Saturday night.
"But we had a very high mark for clarity and comprehension.
"We feel confident about that, but that was a concern for me," she said, noting that the Brooklyn theatre was more than double the size of Sydney's Wharf Theatre, where the play won rave reviews in 2004.
Even so, Nevin said there was no compromise on the Australian tone of the production.
When the character Jorgen Tesman (Anthony Weigh) answers a question from Judge Brack (Weaving) in the affirmative, he says: "Too right."
"I just love it when I hear it," Nevin said. "To try to change that, I think, would be an unnecessary corruption of who we are." The four-week season for Hedda Gabler has broken box office records for BAM. It is the first show at the venue to take more than $US1 million ($1.3 million) in advance sales.
It helps that there is also something of an Ibsen revival this year, which is the 100th anniversary of the Norwegian playwright's death.
With the critics due to deliver their verdict later this week, Nevin is pragmatic about how the Australian production will be received.
"The audience sitting in the dark is the audience sitting in the dark – no matter where you are," she said.