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Nottingham/Touring.

HEDDA GABLER: Adapted by Patrick Marber.
3***


Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 30m: one interval: till 10th February.
Performance times: 7.30pm, matinees 2.00pm Wed and 2.30pm Sat.
Review: Alan Geary: 5th February 2018.


A confused, and confusing, package.

This is Hedda Gabler all right but not quite as Ibsen wrote it. Director Ivo van Hove shifts it from 1890s small-town Norway to a huge white rectangular space in a contemporary Oslo flat. And costumes are modern. What’s more, songs associated with Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen feature in the background.

Sadly, textual and other detail isn’t necessarily up-dated accordingly. So we have Hedda still wanting a butler and a horse; and exhibiting a pair of guns bequeathed by her late father, the general, on the wall. These incongruities and more – no mobiles, no laptops – make for a confused, and confusing package.

Of course, those guns offer an unsubtle clue as to the play’s outcome; as do the way Hedda starts the play slumped as if dead over her piano keyboard, and, later, the tomato juice spilt on the silk chemise she wears the whole time.

Lizzy Watts is an excellent protagonist. She never allows us to forget that Hedda, only just back from a dud honeymoon, is imprisoned in a sterile and loveless marriage. As soon as she starts to speak she sounds disturbed and crazy; the scene where she scatters bunches of flowers all over the stage like a mad woman demonstrates the level of her bottled-up frustration. Her maid, Berte (Madlena Nedeva), is on stage and on watch throughout the play functioning like a no-nonsense prison warder.

But Abhin Galaya, as Tesman, doesn’t properly come over as the dry-as-dust academic he’s supposed to be. With his long straggly hair and embroidered slippers – albeit done by his doting Aunt Juliana (Christine Kavanagh) – he looks quite the opposite. One could imagine Galeya in a role swop with Richard Pyros, who plays Lovborg, his university rival, the writer of a truly original and worthwhile piece of scholarship.

Nevertheless this manages to be watchable stuff – after all, it’s Ibsen trying to get out. But here we have a distressingly typical example of a director attempting to put his imprint on a classic to make it accessible and relevant in contemporary terms. Part of the reason Hedda Gabler is a classic is that it’s timeless: it already speaks to a modern audience. To assume otherwise is to patronise that audience.


Hedda: Lizzy Watts.
Berte: Madlena Nedeva.
Juliana: Christine Kavanagh.
Tesman: Abhin Galeya.
Mrs Elvsted: Annabel Bates.
Brack: Adam Best.
Lovborg: Richard Pyros.


Director: Ivo van Hove.
Set and Lighting Designer: Jan Versweyveld.
Sound Designer: Tom Gibbons.
Associate Lighting Designer: Tony Simpson.
Original Sound Designer: Rod Mead.
Associate Sound Designer: Theo Holloway.
 
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