Olivia Nairn enjoys the Ibsen classic in the beautiful Old Vic surroundings
As I took my seat for Brian Friel’s new version of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s famous play Hedda Gabler (first written in 1890), I had a chance to contemplate an exciting set- the interior of a well-to-do individual’s home, with billowing curtains to suggest the fresh country air- and also to experience the simple pleasure of being in the Old Vic, one of the prettiest theatres in London. As Sheridan Smith entered silently as Hedda Gabler, effortlessly moving about the set before disappearing, the stage was set as her new home, and I was curious as to what would unfold.
Despite knowing very little previously of this play, it quickly becomes apparent that although Gabler is beautiful and the adoring apple of her faithful new husband George Tesman’s eye, she is a highly manipulative character with designs on hurting and destroying those closest to her. Adrian Scarborough excels in the role as Tesman, providing much laughter in a play, which, at its heart, is really a tragedy. Equally amusing as menacing, Darrel D’Silva’s portrayal of Judge Brack is also memorable, although his bawdy humour begins to wear on the audience as much as it does Hedda Gabler! The character of Ejlert Loevberg (an excellent Daniel Lapaine) slowly charts a steep decline into trouble and depression, instigated and allowed to continue, by the hand of Hedda herself. Smith as Hedda captures both the cruel sadistic side of the character and also the bitter unhappiness Hedda feels, her longing for a role in life aside from the safe but unadventurous one her aristocratic birth has permitted.
True to classical tragedy, the action takes place over an intense 24 hour period, although we are not spared all the gore of the woe that this play brings. Overall, I found this to be a thoroughly engaging adaptation and for a first experience of Hedda Gabler, I would highly recommend this production to all.
Hedda Gabler is on at The Old Vic until 10th November