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Review: Hedda Gabler at the Kings Head Theatre

0aa87d3435764b6186f19ec5f10d8324Do like a trimmed down version of a classic and FiasCo’s production of Hedda Gabler came it at 90 minutes straight through yesterday (even shorter than the 115 minutes indicated on the website).


The story of Hedda, who has married a boring academic because she herself is bored and then sets about trying to exert some sort of control over the world around her, can be played in many different ways. Annemarie Highmore’s Hedda, in this production, is cold and calculating. There is no sense of her being a victim of society necessarily or a feminist or someone who wants to protect her husband just a woman who enjoys manipulating others. She is, essentially, a bitch with no redeeming features.


In contrast those around her are warm and friendly. Her husband the obsessive academic George Tesman (Benedict Waring) is well-meaning if distracted, Judge Brack (Daniel Jennings) makes his feelings for Hedda obvious but maintains a level head and the doomed couple Ellert Lovborg and Thea Elvsted just seem sweet and delicate.


The contrast between Hedda and her friends and acquaintances is stark. And, for me, a little too stark; it made it difficult to understand why people had been drawn to her in the first place. If she had a lively if acerbic wit or something magnetic in her personality, like a snake that hypnotises its prey then I could understand but instead she is aloof and difficult to read.


It made the denouement a little emotionless and more of a relief than a shock. I couldn't imagine her passing leaving too much of a trace on those around her, it certainly didn't leave any trace on me.


FiasCo's Hedda is solidly produced and acted and an interesting, if slightly unsatisfactory take on a well known story. There is a repeat performance at the Kings Head on Sunday 27 April.