Being devious can be exciting
So says Judge Brack to the ultra-respectable, ultra-bored Hedda Tesman (nee Gabler) in the Lyceumâ€™s current production of Ibsenâ€™s classic drama, Hedda Gabler.Â Brack (Benny Young) knows it and Hedda (Nicola Daley) needs it; following an erratic course of action (de via arising from devious) will surely release her from the mundane absurdity that is her life?
The play is a tragedy.Â But director, Amanda Gaughanâ€™s, production takes the often expressed view that tragedy is close to comedy and there is humour in the presentation of Richard Eyreâ€™s words: Brackâ€™s innuendo, George Tesmanâ€™s (Lewis Hart) refrain of â€˜Amazing!â€™ to so much that patently isnâ€™t, the ditsy, gushing Thea Elvsted (Jade Williams), and adoring Aunt Ju Ju (Sally Edwards).
Hedda is played with a curious mix of ennui and mania; her smiled is fixed, her words are cruel.Â Victim of her Victorian, oppressed circumstances she may be, but she is simply not a nice person.Â Her manipulation is deliberate; she wants to control a manâ€™s fate â€“ and she does, Georgeâ€™s for a time, and Eilbert Loevborgâ€™s (Jack Tarlton) for all time. And yes, of course, it all back-firesâ€¦ Judge Brack is the one character who matches Hedda game for devious game, and the resultant scenes between the two are some of the strongest in the play.
The Lyceumâ€™s creative team excel in this revival: the contrast lighting, the haunting music and Jean Chanâ€™s inspired set design.Â This offers the audience a wide-angled view, whilst seeming uncannily cage-like for Hedda â€“ and her prey. The on-stage scene and costume changes are well-choreographed, never intrusive, and the costumes themselves a clever, blend of old and new.
Itâ€™s a modern, thought-provoking interpretation of a traditional, realist play and it will divide its audience accordingly.Â Above all, itâ€™s a timeless reminder that actions have consequences and control is never absolute and ever unpredictable.
Running at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, until 11th April.
For more information: Â www.lyceum.org.uk
Box Office: 0131 248 4848