Hedda Gabler

Hedda (née Gabler) and Jørgen Tesman have just returned from a six-month honeymoon and are settling into married life in the house he has bought specifically to please her. Yet Hedda only finds boredom and banality in her married life. When the re-appearance of an old flame of hers threatens both Jorgen’s career prospects and her own amour propre, Hedda becomes increasingly reckless and destructive to those whom surround her.

Ivo Van Hove and Jan Versweyveld’s set design has abandoned the Hedda Gablers which are staged in a cosy room dominated by dialogue. Instead, the couples living room which gives the impression of a sparse, avant garde art gallery, one where Hedda had expectations of holding soirees but which increasingly becomes a prison.

Stripped of furniture, heavy drapes and corsets, the characters are entirely in modern dress, with Hedda herself slinking around in a grey slip. Through losing the historical context with this staging, it causes the audience to ponder why Hedda does not simply leave as visually she does not appear to be confined by societal conventions of the 19th century.

Patrick Marber’s adaption of Ibsen’s play has stripped away the words to their bare minimum, giving the play an urgency and pure clarity of the characters state of minds. 

Ruth Wilson presents a raw, hot-headed and vulnerable Hedda. Wilson expertly captures Hedda as human. She acts as a mirror to those present in front of her; the doting, loving wife for Tesman, a gentle confidant for Thea Elvsted, a playful temptress for Judge Black. Hedda is simultaneously 10 years older and 10 years younger within seconds.

Wilson brilliantly captures a woman deep in the depths of clinical depression, whose feigned madness sometimes slips terrifyingly into the real thing. Yet her Hedda is almost lovable. During moments of isolation upon stage, she genuinely seems to be confiding in us, the audience, with a rare, bruised candour that catches the heart. Dancing to Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ and Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ with a rare complete freedom from her multifaceted life.

Éva Magyar is both wonderfully funny and desperately poignant as Hedda’s new Aunt whom attempts to flatter and befriend Hedda. Sinéad Matthews brings a subtle softness to Thea Elvsted, causing her explosion at Løvborg to be shocking and pitiable.

Rafe Spall gleams as the repellent Brack, radiating a toxic stillness and drop-dead arrogance who engages in an intense battle of wits with Hedda before eventually overpowering her. A stunning turn from Kyle Soller, initially all casual confidence, but descends into anger and anxiety, and Chukwudi Iwuji whose initial jubilation gives way to mounting terror.

Playwright: Henrik Ibsen
Adaption: Patrick Marber
Director: Ivo van Hove
Set & Lighting Designer: Jan Versweyveld
Costume Designer: An D’Huys
Sound Designer: Tom Gibbons
Fight Director: Paul Benzing
Cast: Ruth Wilson, Rafe Spall, Kate Duchêne, Chukwudi Iwuji, Éva Magyar, Sinéad Matthews, Kyle Soller

Photo: Jan Versweyveld

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