Troilus & Cressida at Riverside Studios: An experiment too far
Is this going to be the best week of theatre of 2012, so far?

Hedda Gabler: Tears and scheming from Sheridan in the so called female "Hamlet" role

Hedd-gablerNever seen a production of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler  before but its reputation precedes it, often being referred to as the equivalent role for actresses as Hamlet is to actors.

Having seen the Old Vic's production with Sheridan Smith in the titular role this week I can certainly understand why it is referenced as such. Hedda is a complex and meaty character and one that, like Hamlet, has the draw of a multitude of interpretations.

This production sees the newly-wed Hedda with an older, doting husband George (Adrian Scarborough) who can't believe his luck at winning Hedda but who is also obsessed with his work.

Hedda herself is spikey from the outset, she confesses to her husband's friend Judge Brack (Darrell D'Silva) that she doesn't feel in control of her emotions and finds herself being spiteful and mean without reason or any control.

When we first see Hedda she is leaning up against a window peering out at the audience looking forlorn, trapped and resigned.  The beautiful set is full of elegant windows with rooms within rooms all conservatory-esque and glass heavy.  Pieces of period furniture, lamps and lots of flower arrangements give it a homely feel but their is something cold about the transparency of the inner rooms.

Niceties seem like an effort with Hedda and we soon learn that her decision to marry was more out of fear of not knowing where else to turn having enjoyed the attention of a number of suitors.

Sheridan's Hedda isn't particularly likeable. Her lack of control over her own life leads her to try and manipulate others with disastrous consequences, indeed her behaviour would give psychologists plenty to mull over. However there is something quite tragic about a woman like Hedda, intelligent and full of life who is faced with so few choices and sees her life mapped out in front of her. A woman who is bored with the routine of it all and feels trapped.

It's a play that probably needs a repeat viewing and more familiarity to really get under its skin but I enjoyed, thoroughly this glimpse.

Sheridan proves again to be an accomplished actress and with the rest of the cast also putting in faultless performances. It's getting the thumbs up and five stars from me and I hope to see many more Hedda's.

Hedda Gabler is on at the Old Vic until 10 November.

You can read a far more eloquent review over on @polyg's blog.