1 1
Nov Nov
2017 2017
More info

Watch The Lady English Lecture 2017 on Livestream

17:30 to 18:30
Bonnie Greer gave the 2017 Lady English Lecture on 'The Feminine, Africa, and Constructing an African Hedda Gabler'.

Writer and broadcaster Bonnie Greer gave this year's Lady English Lecture on 'Unknown: The Feminine, Africa, and Constructing an African Hedda Gabler'. She discussed her adaptation of Ibsen's drama in which she casts Hedda as an African woman, why she believes many male adapters have got Hedda wrong, what she thinks Ibsen intended, and the notion of ‘Africa’ and people of African descent in the ‘West’.

What happened at the event

Our speaker Bonnie Greer was welcomed by St Hilda's Principal, Professor Sir Gordon Duff. We then heard from our former Principal Lady Judith English about the origins of the Lady English Fund. Started by members and friends of the College on Lady English's retirement, the fund supports events that promote equality, including this annual lecture series. Lady English concluded by speaking of her pride that St Hilda's places equality firmly next to excellence as part of its identity.

Vice Principal Dr Georgina Paul was delighted to welcome Bonnie Greer, who she described as 'one of the most thoughtful and civilising voices on arts and literature on the UK's airwaves.' Bonnie Greer then began her talk, 'Unknown: The Feminine, Africa, and Constructing an African Hedda Gabler'. The theme was her adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's classic naturalist work, which Greer had never talked about in public before. She spoke about the importance to her of writing by hand. Having gone to secondary school in the 1960s, she was told to learn how to type rather than to become a scientist or a writer. As a result, she refused to learn how to type - but has learned a lot about her own process though writing by hand and used a flip chart and pens to make her points throughout the lecture.

Greer's talk took the form of a chronology of how she came to the play and what she is doing with it now. For the most part, the process has been unconscious from the time that she first came to Hedda Gabler, she thinks in 1975 when she first saw a film version starring Glenda Jackson. Greer remembers Hedda's darkness and rage and magnificent anger.

Bonnie Greer spoke of her background in activist, feminist theatre. Most plays are produced by white males. Those who have produced productions of Hedda Gabler are always trying to explain her and her rage. Greer felt that there was something deeper than this. She wanted to go down to the essence of Hedda as a force of nature. She decided - unconsciously - to use black women as disruptors within classics. Casting Hedda as a woman of sub-Saharan African descent threw up some issues to be resolved. It reordered the text and Greer explained how this made it necessary to work out how everyone else should be in relation to her. The plot turns on the fact that Hedda burns a manuscript. Does this still convince in the digital age? Greer shared her research into writers who still write by hand, some of whom keep a single copy.

The first performance of Hedda Gabler was on 16 November 1890 and on the same day 58 years later, Bonnie Greer was born. She feels a strong connection to this play by Ibsen, who she described as 'the greatest playwright after Shakespeare and the greatest creator of women. He is a master, utter and complete.' Watch the full talk here

 

 

 

Bonnie Greer, The Lady English Lecture 2017
Bonnie Greer gave the 2017 Lady English Lecture on 'The Feminine, Africa, and Constructing an African Hedda Gabler'.
Jude Thompson, Professor Sir Gordon Duff, Bonnie Greer, Lady Judith English, Dr Georgina Paul
Bonnie Greer gave the 2017 Lady English Lecture on 'The Feminine, Africa, and Constructing an African Hedda Gabler'.