Destruction in the Drawing Room

2 March 2008

Hedda Gabler, Corpus Playroom, 26 Feb – 1st March, 19:00

Four Stars

Reviewer Ruth Halkon

Beautiful, bored, married to a dull academic, and unhealthily obsessed with guns, Hedda makes her own entertainment – through destroying the lives of those around her, and having her own life destroyed in the process. HATS’s production of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, directed by Isabel Taylor, is powerful, intense and gripping throughout, exploring the dark side of human nature and the lure of insanity.

From her first entrance, Hedda’s (Molly Goyar Gorman) potent presence electrified the play, instantly overshadowing the stage with her powerfully projected boredom and frustration. Veering convincingly between dangerous sweetness and manic hysteria, at once loving friend and destructive vandal, Gorman captures perfectly the many sides of this complex character.

The other cast members did not fade into the background however; with strong performances from Joe Bunker as Hedda’s husband, a dull, devoted academic – the butt of jokes about academia which provide the main humour of this dark play, and Monty d’Inverno as the manipulative, sardonic Judge Brack. Emma Lofflar’s Thea Elvsted, Hedda’s bullied former classmate and unwitting nemesis, was sweet and timid, without being annoying or saccharine, and her emotion over reprobate lover Eilert Loevberg (Stefan Haselwimmer) was genuinely touching.

The Corpus Playroom is a notoriously difficult space to act in, yet it was perfect for the intimacy of the bourgeois drawing room on stage – intimacy heightened by the relative smallness of the audience. Sound and lighting were the play’s only real weak points; the tinkling piano music between acts clashing with the production as a whole, as was the lighting which did not convey effectively the changes in time which are essential to the play. That said, the final gunshot sent shockwaves through the audience, disturbing them almost as much as it did the convincingly hysterical cast.

Dark, tense, thrilling, and thought provoking, Isabel Taylor’s excellent production of Hedda Gabler is certainly not to be missed.