Who is Hedda Gabler? Deceitful? Trapped? Manipulative? Angry? Bored? And more importantly how has she become this woman? Ibsen’s plays are known for giving women a voice in a time where their story was left untold and Hedda Gabler is no exception. Published in 1890, the play still has huge relevance in today’s world where many women are still fighting to close the gender gap between men and women. Similar playwrights such as Arthur Miller may highlight the mistreatment of women in their work, but it’s Ibsen who takes it one step further and allows them to fight back. It’s hard for women of today to imagine how different life would have been if they’d been born 100 years ago and this play gives some idea of what you’d have had to settle for and what they might have had to do in order to fight off boredom.
The play explores Hedda Gabler’s relationships with others as she tries to navigate her way through the first year of her marriage to a man she may or may not love. The twists and turns of the plot are exceptional. I found myself constantly trying to work out what was happening in Hedda’s head and how this would translate into the remainder of the story, mostly unsuccessfully. As the play progressed it became clear that Hedda was not the only one with a hidden agenda and this added further tension to the show, leaving you expecting the unexpected.
The role of Hedda was played by Roann McCloskey who really got into her character’s head, portraying the multi-faceted personality flawlessly, especially the cold, removed woman who is able to cut people down with a single look or word. Mentions must also go to Karen Walker who gave a convincing performance as the eccentric Aunt JuJu, and Anna Whitelock whose performance as the nervous, down-trodden maid evoked the sympathy of an entire audience.
Daniel Ball who plays Hedda’s husband George Tesman worked hard to portray the annoyingly optimistic academic. However, it was hard to believe that these two people could ever have been married. Whilst I’m sure the lack of connection can be partly explained by the story itself, it almost felt that these were two people who moved in different worlds and would never have met.
The play was interspersed with music throughout to cover costume changes. Whilst it may have brought dramatic effect I sometimes think silence is more powerful, especially in play such as this where part of the plot is the unexpected. The music became too loud and detracted from the play somewhat.
Overall Hedda Gabler is an enjoyable experience which makes you consider life in another time. It left me wondering for a long time after the play, ending with more questions than answers and whilst there are some minor irritations for the most part the play is interesting and absorbing.
Review by Emily Diver
Presented by Tower Theatre Company
By Henrik Ibsen
In a version by Richard Eyre
13th – 17th October 2015
Tuesday – Saturday 7.30pm
Matinee: Saturday 17th at 3pm
Hedda Gabler struggles with an existence that is, for her, devoid of excitement and enchantment.
Filled with a passion for life that cannot be confined by her marriage or ‘perfect home’, she strives to find a way to fulfill her desires.
An amateur performance presented by arrangement with NICK HERN BOOKS
Running time: 2 hours 10 mins approx (including an interval of 15 mins)
Upstairs At The Gatehouse
London N6 4BD