Review: Hedda Gabler

Kyaelim Kwon 30 April 2014

When writing Hedda Gabler in 1890, Ibsen was writing for contemporary Oslo and had its Victorian values in mind. In adapting this masterpiece to suit Cambridge's ADC stage, I am quite certain that director Jesse Haughton-Shaw, pictured a Parisenne woman, living in the 16th 'arrondissement' for the portrayal of Hedda. Indeed, Jesse’s heroine, played by the talented Kay Dent, dressed in all-black, smoking cigarettes and drinking martins, is superbly classy and dangerously alluring.

Nisha Emich's design is grand; tastefully furnished and  completed with French windows dressed with red (albeit not velvet) curtains, and the veil in the middle dividing the stage is fanatsically clever. 

A play that it deals with the agony and uncertainty of finishing a PhD in history could hardly be more appropriate and interesting for this audience. Unfortunately for George Tesman (Saul Boyer), Hedda’s material comfort, Eilert Loevborg (Robbie Aird) has published a book on civilisation and has jeopardised Tesman’s chance of getting that post at the university. I’m sure many of the members of the audience could identify all too well of what it is like to have someone in the same field, possibly even an acquaintance, publish a trailblazer. I digress…

Hedda, la femma fatale, is bored with the security provided by George and his aunts’ mortgaged annuity,  so resorts to what she knows best – seduction. Kay captured Ibsen’s heroine brilliantly; she was powerful, yet constrained by the society around her and the feeling that she was deprived the opportunity to carve out a space in the world on her own was clear.  Hedda is forced to live vicariously to fill her empty life through her men and the actors complemented her well, making you nevertheless very aware of Hedda exercising control and manipulating their 'love' for her. Although, Hedda would scorn, "Don't use that sickening word”.

Overall, the play has an air of professionalism and dedication. The beautiful and charming actors have clearly had the backing of an exceptionally strong production team who have enhanced Ibsen's drama with fantastic music and lighting. It is not to be missed.