Hedda Gabler

Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen in a new version by Richard Eyre and directed by Amanda Gaughan is the penultimate 2014-15 production in Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre.

By any measure, Hedda Gabler is a dark and disturbing play. I have read it and I have seen other productions, but I’m no expert. Richard Eyre, on the other hand, knows it well and the script playing at Edinburgh is the product of that knowledge. That may be why it concentrates so heavily on the two younger women, Hedda and her rival for Eilbog Loevborg’s soul, Thea Elvsted. We all know how men have consigned women to the reproductive nurturing roles, let us see how women treat each other.

It’s not pretty. I reached the interval thoroughly shaken by Nicole Daley’s performance. What a sinister air she gave to the doomed Hedda. It was difficult to find any sympathy, as the character manipulated and cowed everyone around her. She’s a far more ambivalent creation than Nora Helmer. Jade Williams’s performance, however, I found harder to connect with and, we are a middle-aged audience folks, sometimes a little difficult to hear.

I wasn’t convinced by the dressing. Why was our heroine, a woman who wanted to set up a Salon, wearing ankle socks with high heeled shoes? Why had the women lost the piles of hair so characteristic of the late nineteenth century.

The set was clever and worked well for the actors and audience with its ongoing glimpses into what was happening elsewhere in the household. The general’s portrait commanded our attention every time Hedda did something else that was supremely unwomanly.

This is an evening well spent.

Run continues till 11 April. box office

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