This revitalised version of Ibsen’s classic text brings us into the modern world with their light bright stage and interior décor of a 21st century open plan home. The light gives you a false sense of security that this will be easy watching. It is far from that.
There is nothing charming or endearing about Ruth Wilson playing Hedda, immediately you don’t like her. We first see her naked back slumped onto an antique piano, sulking while her husband potters around the house bare foot entertaining his aunty. She comes across like a spoilt brat, seeking nothing but misery from everyone. She has an addiction this is understandable but I have no empathy for her.
The staging is a large white box almost clinical with spaced out odd furniture almost trying to make everything a ‘feature’. I guess the emptiness represents the missing soul in their fickle lives. The entrances are two stairs leading to the auditorium so this brings us closer to the characters that use them. Hedda is always on stage almost as if she were a piece of art to be looked at in a gallery.
They play the high stakes very well creating tension using melodramatic music and staging. The cast shift when an awkward moment occurs and all the characters glide to one side of the stage when Hedda is in a particularly bad mood. Hedda comes across as a middle class white woman shutting down every chance of happiness or escapism that you can’t help but think this is purely a life of privilege; there is no struggle or pain and just feels empty.
There is a crescendo of tension during the second half where we see her destruction come to life stapling flowers to the wall and throwing almost an entire garden of flowers across the stage. Seeing such delicate beauty being demolished like that is a great metaphor for Hedda’s mental state of mind. It is at this point we can see she is infecting her world around her with her ill thoughts. The love triangle is entertaining to watch as we know her dirty secret but almost feel sorry for her husband as he is completely unaware and comes across as a reliable and likeable guy. The staging is played well as there are moments when the three of them are isolated in a shifting triangle.
The racey moments really get going when Hedda brings out her gun and plays with her lovers,pointing the gun right at their foreheads. It’s hard to watch these scenes knowing the amount of deaths that occur because of careless gun owners. This is another moment where Hedda’s privilege proceeds her. There are some great moments of stillness and beautiful destruction during this play, if feels more like a live art installation. It requires patience and an empathic heart as it is a hard watch with tired characters with frustrating abuse of power. 2/5
Review written by Jessica Andrade.
Hedda Gabler is currently showing at the National Theatre until Tuesday 21st March. For more information on the production, visit here…