Review: Hedda Gabler

March 18, 2010


Hedda Gabler at the Richmond Theatre is a poignant piece. One of Henrik Ibsen’s finest and most celebrated works, it depicts the crowded and claustrophobic life of the once Hedda Gabler, the now married Hedda Tesman.

Ibsen’s work has stood defiantly against the test of time, and in this production directed by Adrian Noble, it shows that Hedda Gabler is still standing strong. Nobel’s production is simple in it’s naturalistic form, yet the characters he has manipulated show a much more complex system at work.

Rosamund Pike takes centre stage as Hedda, who is truly fantastic. As the play draws its path through the events surrounding Hedda, Pike twists and turns the character, sparing fleeting moments on tenderness, anger, oppression and defiance. By the end of the play it is as if Pike wants to tear off her corset and break free of her restraints, to burst out of the drawing room to which she has been imprisoned. Of course anyone who knows the play will know how she finally escapes – but even this inevitable outcome left me somewhat surprised.

Whilst Nobel’s direction is naturalistic it is the subtle character traits that he has assigned to the actors that leave you with a slight edge.

Pike drifts around the stage as if automated, then suddenly she drops to a sofa, lays out, strewn in despair – in boredom, before jumping up and proceeding her solemn walking.

Robert Glenister as Tesman has a repeated hand gesture, and eludes a sense of child naivety about him, whilst Tim McInnerny as Judge Black is stern, slightly camp and a joy to watch.

Mention has to be made of Zoe Waites as Mrs Elvstead who for me, was truly remarkable. She was every bit of how I see the character, and not for a moment did she stray beyond my expectations. A fine example of acting that doesn’t become a  farce nor melodramatic, but rather blooming marvellous. (Watch out for Zoe Waites, she is certainly one to keep an eye on).

As a whole Hedda Gabler sits between being not quite spectacular, and neither  falling into average theatre. It is funny, charming, slightly shocking and works beautifully on the stage of the historic Richmond Theatre. Nobel has managed to make the most of Ibsen’s text, drawing the audience slowly in with subtle advances, whilst exploring the characters and producing a quality piece of theatre.

On a production side both Anthony Wards scenic design and Mark Hendersons lighting design are quite simply flawless. They work in completely harmony with Nobels direction working particularly well on drawing out a sense of oppression and madness of Hedda Gabler as a character through the darkened lighting of Henderson.

The only form of criticism I can give to this production is the length of the scene changes, something just didn’t quite fit right with them. I wanted the action to be worked through, instead of having to pause. Alas, a small price to pay for a brilliant night out!

Hedda Gabler is at the Richmond Theatre until 20th March. For more information on this Theatre Royal Bath Production or for it’s run at the Richmond Theatre see the theatres website here.

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