Image Hedda Gabler artwork
Kicking off this month, Queens of the North season at Northern Stage is set to present a fascinating series of plays that celebrate femininity in their subject, direction and production.
The season will open with a fresh adaptation of a gothic classic: showing now, Dr Frankenstein sees the broody Victor Frankenstein replaced by Victoria. Of course, this is somewhat fitting, as the original novel was written by Mary Shelley – daughter of infamous feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. The plot, which follows the obsessive Frankenstein’s descent into madness, deals with themes of artificial creation, reproduction and the female anatomy, as the doctor toils to create perfect artificial life. However, it can also be said that the play bravely confronts themes of intolerance and the dangers of prejudice – all themes which relate well to the issues of Mary Shelley’s time, as well as the ones we still face in our modern society. Naturally, this version will be pretty different from the original, according to Northern Stage Artistic Director Lorne Campbell: “The novel was written by a woman, and I’ve always read it as being about women. It’s about responsibility – from a female perspective, so it seemed fitting that Dr. Frankenstein was a woman.”
Also included is what many see as the female equivalent of Hamlet – Hedda Gabler. A classic by the so-called ‘father of realism’ Henrik Ibsen, the play tells the story of a young woman who is bored with her newfound responsibilities as a newlywed to a man she doesn’t really love. The added subtitle This is not a Love Story highlights the importance of the play not being taken as such – rather, it is an exploration into the life of a woman trapped by the men around her, closing down paths and relationships with people that may make her happy. Interestingly, the production is also an early take on the realities of mental illness – creating, overall, a female character who is both alive and complex in a way which most other female roles at the time were not. Of the infamous heroine, writer and director Selma Dimitrijevic says: “Hedda finds herself boxed into a life she never chose for herself and basically has three options: to submit, to put a bullet in her head, or to stick two fingers up at the world and change the rules.” You can see Hedda yourself from Thursday 16th February until Wednesday 8th March.
Alongside these glorious re-productions, Northern Stage will present an innovative new production on Wednesday 3rd and Saturday 5th February. Present from the Past is a compilation of forgotten plays by 17th century female writers: these lost works will come back to life as they are read, script-in-hand on stage by female actors, with an introduction by academics from Newcastle University.
All in all, Queens of the North will prove to be a fascinating look at femininity through the ages, with dramatic artistic pieces written by women, for women. Even if you’re not a woman, you’ll definitely want to experience it.