It has been a hot minute since I went to see a play. I tend to gravitate more towards musicals but watching Hedda Gabler was such a refreshing change!
I hadn’t heard of Hedda Gabler before i received an email from Milton Keynes Theatre inviting me to the show. The original play was written by a Norwegian playwright, Hendrik Ibsen, however this version was a modern adaptation of the story by Partick Marber and directed by Ivo Van Hove.
Hedda Gabler and her husband Tesman have returned from their long honeymoon to their new (very empty) home. Hedda is bored and deeply unhappy in her marriage. She finds Tesman unbearable and the two share very little in common. Hedda later admits to Brack that she settled for Tesman for an easy life, as she “Isn’t getting any younger”.
Hedda is deeply desired by all, with a particular power over men, however we later learn that her desirability is both her strength and her downfall. She manipulates the people around her and takes pleasure in breaking things, however despite all of this she remains voiceless, and her unhappiness and frustration is frequently dismissed. This made us as an audience take pity on her and allowed us to empathise with her sorrow.
Although the original play was first performed in 1891 the themes explored and the character of Hedda is still incredibly relevant for today’s audiences; exploring topical issues of social pressure and conformity, which are still very much present even in todays society.
The play is beautifully put together, with great attention to detail.
Hedda has one costume throughout; she wears a cream silk chemise which falls and clings to every curve of her body. It’s both sensual and exposing all in one.
Both Tesman and his aunt have an almost constant gaze over her, with particular focus on her stomach implying she might be with child, which makes the audience emphasise with her sense of unease.
Jan Versweyveld, the set and lighting designer, has placed Hedda and the characters in a raw, empty shell of a room. Its sparse and cold which makes it all the more oppressive.
The room has only one window where a flood of white light pours through but there is no door in sight, which makes it feel claustrophobic despite it being a large space.
The use of light throughout was ingenious.
There is a sequence where we see Hedda opening and closing the blinds that shows both time passing and the change from day to night, however it is Hedda’s control and manipulation of this light that in turn sheds light on her character.
In one of the opening scenes we see Hedda scorn the morning light that streams through the window, and insists on closing the blinds. Immediately after, a colder, more harsh blue toned light fills the space that in turns sets the tone and reflects Hedda’s state of mind. It is very thought provoking and skilfully done.
Hedda Gabler exceeded my expectations. I can’t recommend it enough!
You can find out more about the tour here
A final big thank you to Milton Keynes theatre for the complimentary tickets.