As part of my Super South Bank prize I received two tickets to the preview week of The Old Vic’s new production of Hedda Gabler, please see my review below:
One middle-class household, one (most fabulous) spoilt bitch with a wicked mean streak, a ton of scandal, a gripping plot and some intense melodrama thrown in for good measure; it could only be Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler.
Originally a play published in 1890 by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, it premiered in 1891 in Germany to mostly negative reviews. Gradually it came to make quite the name for itself as a gritty piece of realistic nineteenth century theatre and, following on from its massively successful stint on Broadway in 1902, the character of Hedda is now seen as one of the greatest female roles in theatre today; a female Hamlet, if you will.
Hedda Gabler is the helplessly bored daughter of an aristocratic general. She has just returned to her ‘dream home’ after a long honeymoon with Jørgen Tesman, a young academic who felt it appropriate to combine research with their honeymoon. With suspicions of pregnancy and the promise of a professorship in the air, things seem quite settled for the newly-married pair, that is until Eilert Loevborg, Tesman’s academic rival and Hedda’s old squeeze, makes a triumphant return to their lives.
In this new version of the play by Brian Friel at the Old Vic, London, the character of Hedda is tackled by Olivier award-winning actress Sheridan Smith, hailed by the Evening Standard as “one of the stage stars of her generation.” Those that have seen Smith perform before will know that she has the ability to be both light and comical, but also poignant and deep. The role of Hedda allowed Smith to flex both aforementioned areas of her acting repertoire and she had the audience both gasping and laughing in turn. She was also able to perfectly capture Hedda’s ‘demon’ side, with a most precise and calculated cruelty (most apparent when on stage with Tesman’s aunt) and a divinely sadistic cackle.
The supporting performances were equally as blinding. Darrell D’Silva made for a particularly menacing Judge Brack whilst Adrian Scarborough was perfectly suited to his character of the absurd and buffoon-like Tesman. However, it was Daniel Lapaine who was almost nipping at Sherdian Smith’s heels to steal her ‘star of the show’ title; his portrayal of the brilliant yet highly damaged Loevborg was simply astounding.
Hedda Gabler runs until 10 November at The Old Vic. For more information: www.oldvictheatre.com
Cast: Darrell D’Silva, Buffy Davis, Daniel Lapaine, Anne Reid, Adrian Scarborough, Sheridan Smith, Fenella Woolgar
Director: Anna Mackmin
Designer: Lez Brotherston
Lighting: Mark Henderson
Music: Paul Englishby
Sound: Simon Baker
Casting: Sarah Bird