Written in 1884 and first performed in 1885, The Wild Duck is the tale of the tragic death of Hedvig, a 14-year-old girl. A rich and powerful narrative, The Wild Duck is considered by critics to be Ibsen’s masterpiece, a work that clearly denotes the evolution of his thought. In a move away from romanticism and a turn toward psychology, Ibsen demystified the ‘hero’ and remodelled the portrayal of domestic life by torturing his characters with societal ideals and their inherent evils.
What is it that drove Hedvig to commit the ultimate sacrificial act? Was this an honourable act of love, or the sinister consequence of selfish fantasies? How is one girl so deeply affected by the actions of many?
It begins with the return of Gregers Werle from his self inflicted exile and his re-acquaintance with his estranged friend Hialmar Ekdal. On his return, Gregers uncovers profound truths surrounding Hialmar’s family life. In a fantastical attempt to liberate Hialmar from these truths, he instead destroys the family. Hedvig, Hialmar’s daughter, shoots herself in the chest.
Hedvig’s wounded wild duck becomes an allegory for the lives of the main characters. Ibsen constructs a spatial metaphor where characters play out synchronised duplicate lives between Hialmar’s studio and the wild duck’s garret. Here, characters orchestrate their personal fantasies. From great adventures to daydreams and game hunting, these are clear diversions from reality.
We are all Hedvig… In a world where we constantly reinvent ourselves using numerous platforms and medias, The Wild Duck is ever more relevant. It questions the way we operate, the roles we play and the multiple personalities we sustain in the performance of our lives.
John Byrne Court (34 Wentworth Street), Glebe, is the site for the contemporary staging of The Wild Duck. Constructed by the Sydney City Council in 1962, the 12-storey tower has become a prominent landmark in Glebe’s east. Originally, the 120 flats were intended for low-income earners, however, today the building hosts a myriad of diverse residents.