by Henrik Ibsen translated by Michael Meyer.

Theatre Royal Bath Productions Tour to 3 April 2010.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 March at Richmond Theatre.

A noteworthy production.
This is one for avid students whose theatre visits are accompanied by rustling notebooks rather than sweet-wrappings. Adrian Noble invests his production with any amount of thematic and character-related detail. Hedda’s progress (or retreat from her ambition of influencing a significant man to being cornered by a sleazily hypocritical one) is charted in her physical presence. She’s often alone, eavesdropping, avoiding human contact except when attacking old school acquaintance Thea Elvsted or cosying up to intellectual dreamboat Eilert Loevborg.

Their near-intertwining faces and necks contrast her stiff reluctance when embraced by her new husband Tesman, and when he lays on her on the couch. Rosamund Pike’s tall Hedda stands isolated in the space, or leaning against a proscenium pillar. She’s often caught in her silvery dress by shafts of silvery lighting, seen amid the encircling gloom of life in the house she’d so admired from the outside, or in silhouette, a creature in, and increasingly of, the dark.

There are strong performances around. Both Robert Glenister’s dull Tesman (who manages to acquire the authoritarian manner of Torvald Helmer at one point) and Anna Carteret’s benevolently conventional aunt refuse to be ridiculous, strengthening Aunt Julie’s incomprehension of what excites the Hedda who wants to give birth to a man’s heroic actions yet clutches her stomach at the thought of actual child-birth.

And the production’s enlivened by the contrast between Zoe Waites’ Thea, who seems to realise too little and Tim McInnerny’s Judge Brack, who makes his realisation crystal clear. By the end even Thea’s dismissing the woman she’s always held in such awe.

Burt, thematically apt as Anthony Ward’s dark and blood-red set is, its elements look as if nothing quite fits – the room goes off to one side of the stage, furniture has no logical layout and the industrial-scale stove stands awkwardly noticeable at the side, like a child with their hand permanently in the air.

So, plenty to record and comment upon, without providing the involving tragedy of, for example, Thomas Ostermeier’s radical version which visited the Barbican in 2008; its devastating end is still etched in the memory.

Aunt Juliana Tesman: Anna Carteret.
Bertha: Janet Whiteside.
Tesman: Robert Glenister.
Hedda: Rosamund Pike.
Mrs Elvsted: Zoe Waites.
Judge Brack: Tim McInnerny.
Loevborg: Colin Tierney.

Director: Adrian Noble.
Designer: Anthony Ward.
Lighting: Mark Henderson.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.
Assistant director: Beckie Mills.

2010-03-18 11:09:56

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