Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Hedda Gabler

Henrik Ibsen, translated by Edmund Gosse and William Archer
Elsewhere and SAGA
The Courtyard Theatre Studio
(2009)

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A story of love, marriage, disappointments and desire, this classic text has seen countless interpretations and re-workings. First published in 1890, the play is one of the best known from Ibsen's cannon of work and the character of Hedda often held up as the theatrical female equivalent to Hamlet. Directed by Dean Taylor this production offers little new insight into the play but does offer an engaging evening of drama.

Josephine Short is a visually striking Hedda Gabler and captures many aspects of the highly complex character. Her strong performance, however, lacks in places the light and shade to truly make Hedda's descent gradual. Her emotional charge in Act one is such that she leaves herself little room for further exploration.

Gareth McChlery as her kindly yet uncomprehending husband, George Tessman, created a likeable flustered character whose interaction with Aunt Julia (played ably by Jill Stanford) did give reason for the audience to understand Hedda's sense of confinement and frustration.

Daniel Jennings is suitably manipulative as Judge Brack, exercising polite but controlled menace and Sarah Fortune offers a quivering and naïve Thea Elvsted, remaining just the right side of being sickly sweet.

Whilst the 1950's setting did give Short the opportunity to blaze in her red cocktail dress, this was a visually confused production. For an interior set the lighting veered between being either harsh or far too theatrical with odd shadows being thrown. If this was for dramatic effect it unfortunately only served to mask the actor's expressions. The plastic sheeting making up the walls of the drawing room was also a brave choice. Although Grit Eckert's design idea theoretically served to reinforce the themes of the play, in reality it was an attempt at symbolism which didn't quite succeed. The bursts of piano at pivotal moments also worked in places but could have been more effective and emotive if used rather more sparingly.

This may not be a revolutionary interpretation of Ibsen's classic play but it is a solid production that does create moments of tension and unease. Even faced with the utter inevitability of the ending a member of the audience still gasped, demonstrating that however many times the story is re-told, the writing can still be potent.

Running until 5th April

Reviewer: Amy Yorston