Hedda Gabler – Review

Being devious can be exciting

So says Judge Brack to the ultra-respectable, ultra-bored Hedda Tesman (nee Gabler) in the Lyceum’s current production of Ibsen’s classic drama, Hedda Gabler.  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.  But director, Amanda Gaughan’s, production takes the often expressed view that tragedy is close to comedy and there is humour in the presentation of Richard Eyre’s words: Brack’s innuendo, George Tesman’s (Lewis Hart) refrain of ‘Amazing!’ to so much that patently isn’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.  Victim of her Victorian, oppressed circumstances she may be, but she is simply not a nice person.  Her manipulation is deliberate; she wants to control a man’s fate – and she does, George’s for a time, and Eilbert Loevborg’s (Jack Tarlton) for all time. And yes, of course, it all back-fires… 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 Lyceum’s creative team excel in this revival: the contrast lighting, the haunting music and Jean Chan’s inspired set design.  This offers the audience a wide-angled view, whilst seeming uncannily cage-like for Hedda – 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.

It’s a modern, thought-provoking interpretation of a traditional, realist play and it will divide its audience accordingly.  Above all, it’s a timeless reminder that actions have consequences and control is never absolute and ever unpredictable.

Rating: ***1/2


Running at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, until 11th April.

For more information:  www.lyceum.org.uk

Box Office: 0131 248 4848



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