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Review: Hedda Gabler

A successful exploration of the tense complexities of humanity


One of Henrik Ibsen’s most famous works undergoes a renaissance on the Robinson Auditorium’s stage this Lent term, in a production which explores Hedda Gabler’s complexities in a refreshing way. The story follows the destructive way in which Hedda moves in her circles, breaking down relationships and eventually leading to her own downfall.

The play shone in portraying moments of tension with a palpable intensity, partially as a result of some really interesting sound design on Zak Bakkali‘s part (where the soundtrack of this production at points was moving and poignant, and at others was incredibly eerie and kept the audience on the edge of their seats). The other major factor in this tension was the cast, whose on-stage chemistry lent itself to some really suspenseful moments.

Image credits: Mary O’Shaughnessy

This revolved, of course, around the titular character: Eirlys Lovell-Jones‘ portrayal of a depraved and uneasy figure who clearly struggles with her identity was conveyed with a naturalistic and brilliant level of skill. She especially expressed the two-faced nature of her character in a very skilful way, able to balance the complex roles of a bored and restrained wife with a dangerous and beguiling side. Her manipulation of all the people around her culminates in brilliantly tense moments such as with Elvsted at the end of the first act and when pushing Lovborg to her wits’ end – a nuanced and extremely emotive performance.

A similar phenomenon occurs in the character of Lovborg portrayed by Maddy Power, whose transformation from the sober, calm and collected academic into a hedonistic and passionate lover is excellently conveyed and really engaging to watch. I thought also the choice to present Lovborg as a woman worked incredibly well in creating new dimensions of tensions that perhaps didn’t exist before, and aids in a discussion of female sexuality that already lies at the heart of the play. This was reinforced in her relationship with Emma Kentridge‘s Elvsted, whose role as a concerned lover in the face of the intimidating Hedda was enacted well.

Image credits: Mary O’Shaughnessy

The dichotomy also of the two men in Hedda’s life is equally brilliant; Hugo Gregg‘s portrayal of Hedda’s honest husband Tesman provides a much-needed lightness in his characterisation as a sweet and doting academic. In contrast to this is Ella Scott‘s devious Brack, whose dry and charming wit covers up his sly, and eventually fatal, ulterior motives. It is particularly enjoyable to see these two interact to create the space where Tesman’s lovable innocence comes into contact with Brack’s insincerity. This is also supported by Gwynn Horbury as Aunt Julle and Catherine Wray as Berte, who presented lively interjections from a somewhat detached, outside position as they watch Hedda’s relationships begin to unravel.

The dichotomy also of the two men in Hedda’s life is equally brilliant; Hugo Gregg‘s portrayal of Hedda’s honest husband Tesman provides a much-needed lightness in his characterisation as a sweet and doting academic. In contrast to this is Ella Scott‘s devious Brack, whose dry and charming wit covers up his sly, and eventually fatal, ulterior motives. It is particularly enjoyable to see these two interact to create the space where Tesman’s lovable innocence comes into contact with Brack’s insincerity. This is also supported by Gwynn Horbury as Aunt Julle and Catherine Wray as Berte, who presented lively interjections from a somewhat detached, outside position as they watch Hedda’s relationships begin to unravel.

The production was generally cohesive, easy to follow and yet always kept us on our toes. The very ending perhaps lacked a bit of the same punchiness that characterises the rest of the play, in that it was quite abrupt and was also harder to follow due to some unbalanced volume issues in the sound design. Having said this, however, this was the only instance of this occurring and is something I am sure can be aptly adjusted in the following nights, thus creating a perfect end to such a brilliant play.

This is truly a testament to director Kitty Croft‘s vision, with the result that this production is a vibrant and truly captivating rendition. I was completely entranced in my viewing experience of this play: a really unique production on a really unique stage that will leave you feeling really satisfied and moved in ways that can only be understood if you go see this play!

4/5

Hedda Gabler is showing on the 21st – 24th of February at 7:30 pm at the Robinson College Auditorium. Book your tickets here.